Editorial: PM has to use a new ad approach to win voters

What an eclectic mix of agencies Gordon Brown's Labour Party has chosen to fight for its account. From a pillar of the advertising establishment such as Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO to a leading-edge digital communications specialist such as Profero. As one agency chief used to working on political advertising puts it: "Either Labour has a very clear idea of what it wants - or it has no idea at all."

Labour's previous advertising record suggests the latter. In a popular poll to choose the best-ever political poster, the chances are that the Tories' "Labour isn't working" or "Labour's tax bombshell" would emerge victorious. Labour would probably be lucky to hold on to its deposit.

The reason is that the party has allowed itself to be deluged with too much advice from too many people, resulting in a lack of cohesion and consistency in the way it presents itself. This could be a problem for an agency. But there are other challenges, too. The main one is that a Brown-led administration has to make the case for things staying as they are when it is easier for opponents to make the case for change.

Nevertheless, Brown has some formidable redeeming factors that can be exploited. He may not do charisma. But that may be no great disadvantage, with voters having grown weary of the slickness and spin of the Blair era.

Moreover, most seem to like what they've seen of Brown. His handling of the attempted terrorist attacks on London and Glasgow, the floods and the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has been described as "swift, sombre but reassuring". Most punters might well agree.

In the end, Labour's ability to communicate effectively with voters will depend on how well it, and its agency, adapts to a rapidly evolving communications environment. Huge above-the-line campaigns are a thing of the past. Not least because Labour can't afford them. The need to keep costs down, and the desire for people to be addressed as individuals, will force political communication to get up close and personal. Otherwise the "Brown bounce" could fall flat.