Editorial: Advertising can help Tory Party if it has substance

One measure of the rising fortunes of David Cameron's Conservative Party, which is talking to Karmarama about its creative account, is that high-profile agencies are once again interested in having the party on their books.

How different it was a few years ago. As a brand, the Tory Party was screwed. No agency with a reputation fancied putting it on the line in an attempt to revive the party's miserable fortunes.

Cameron's emergence has changed all that. Opinion polls suggest he is the first Tory leader in a decade to secure a lead over New Labour, albeit a modest one. The big question is whether effective advertising can help him build on it.

Appointing Karmarama, whose best-known piece of political advertising is its "make tea not war" for the Stop the War Coalition, would be a defining moment for the Tories. Not only would it mark the end of the party's long association with the Saatchis, but also show it recognise how communicating with voters has changed. Simple "vote for me" election time appeals are not as important as they were - politicians have to sustain an ongoing dialogue.

Cameron understands this and has been willing to slay a few Tory sacred cows as a result. Who would have expected a Tory leader to proclaim that there was "more to life than money"? Or that it was wrong for the party to have opposed sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. The problem is Cameron's statements can appear like policy-making on the hoof. His recent attack on advertisers for the sexualisation of children certainly seemed like tilting at windmills, given that only three such ads have fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority in the past five years.

Cameron has to show his policies have coherence. And it is here that an agency like Karmarama can help by showing people clearly what he really stands for. No agency can work miracles, however - if Cameron offers no more than rhetoric, not even the best advertising will be able to sell it.


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