It's M&C Saatchi's 'pocket Miliband' ad wot won it
A view from Maisie McCabe

It's M&C Saatchi's 'pocket Miliband' ad wot won it

Although the election result was a shock to lots of people, it will have been welcomed by many of you. Well, that’s if the respondents to our online polls are more reflective of the ad industry than the people who spoke to pollsters were of the country. Or at least more honest. More than 50 per cent of our readers said the Conservatives would serve adland best. And, funnily enough, that was the party senior executives told Campaign’s sister title Media Week they would be voting for in its 30th anniversary edition.

Far from being a cosmopolitan out-of-touch elite, it seems the ad industry turned out to be pretty reflective of the UK at large. When asked to make a choice between the current circumstances, which many people feel aren’t too bad after all, and a party that had only just started letting its leader go out on his own, they decided to stick with what they knew. I wrote back in April that the official campaigns were unlikely to be used as a case study in political advertising. Yet the Tories’ messaging clearly got through.

The Conservatives’ original plan was to talk about the economy and the failings of Ed Miliband. But it turned out Miliband was not the sure-fire vote-loser they had expected. Happily, in March, M&C Saatchi came up with the brutally simple idea of depicting Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket, thus a whole new plank was added to the Tory campaign strategy. After Nicola Sturgeon’s success in the debates, another creative featuring her followed.

The pocket ad and its follow-ups had a big impact on the wider debate, helped no doubt by a friendly press

Many people saw the lack of poster campaigns as proof of why broadcast political advertising is dead. But you don’t have to use billboards to broadcast messages. The pocket ad and its follow-ups had a big impact on the wider debate, helped no doubt by a friendly press. Indeed, the number of national newspaper headlines linking Labour and the Scottish National Party increased tenfold between the launch of the pocket execution and the election.

There were broadcast messages; they were just in an online form that could be shared easily. And the messages were accompanied by a sophisticated online campaign steeped in data and analytics. While an uncharacteristically humble Moray MacLennan says the win should be credited to David Cameron, Lynton Crosby and his team, by coming up with the pocket idea, M&C Saatchi added a bit of creative magic.

In contrast, Labour’s election agency, Lucky Generals, ended up doing very little work for the party. Yes, there were experienced ad executives helping, but the campaign lacked creative genius. It may have been that the electorate wouldn’t have bought Labour regardless of how the party was sold. But it’s a shame an agency didn’t get to properly try.