Lib Dems in attack on 'negative' advertising

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,

he said.

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.