Delegates at the Liberal Democrat conference attacked the "negative
advertising" by Labour and the Tories at this year's general election,
saying it had helped to turn off the voters from politics.
The criticism came at a fringe meeting on Tuesday, hosted by the
Advertising Association and attended by 90 delegates attending the
Liberal Democrats' annual conference in Bournemouth.
Replying to the attacks by Liberal Democrat activists, Robert Bean, the
chairman of the party's agency, Banc, challenged "the conventional
wisdom that positive advertising does not work".
He cited Banc's first ad of the campaign, showing how more people would
vote for the Liberal Democrats if they thought they could win.
Their positive slogan - "A real chance for real change" - also worked,
Bean added: "I don't think it's true that only negative advertising
works. But a truthful negative which exposes the weakness of the enemy
can be devastatingly powerful."
Despite the Liberal Democrats' shoestring budget, Bean argued that the
party had run the best-branded and consistent campaign in June, hitting
the right agenda of public services before the other two main parties.
He said that branding had now become the single most important
communications force in commerce and politics.
Bean, who backed Labour's calls for party political broadcasts to be
turned into 30-second slots like commercials, said the June election had
shown the limitations of internet advertising.
"It may not be a good medium for big messages," he said.
The other speaker at the AA meeting was Michael White, the political
editor of The Guardian. It was chaired by Neil Sherlock, a Liberal
Democrat adviser and partner, public affairs at KPMG.
Bean told the meeting that his job at the election had been to introduce
the party's relatively unknown leader, Charles Kennedy, to voters and
brand him as a "normal and honest" man.
He claimed people were already positively disposed to a leader such as
Bean's task had been to "take this unknown character called Kennedy who
appeared to be normal and honest - all the things that the public
wanted", and project that image.
"There was the increasing feeling that people were fed up with
mud-slinging and yah-boo-to-you politics," he said.