The Conservative Party is seeking a sympathetic businessman willing to
pay a ‘transfer fee’ of up to pounds 1 million to enable the party to
switch its advertising account from Saatchi and Saatchi to M&C Saatchi.
Tory fund-raisers are understood to have approached leading supporters
in industry and told them that switching the account would boost the
party’s general election prospects.
Although no donor has yet been found, the move is the clearest signal so
far that the Tories would like to end their link with Saatchi and
Saatchi and hire Maurice Saatchi’s new agency.
Officially, the Tory chairman, Brian Mawhinney, insists the party has no
plans to change its contract with Saatchis and wants it to have a
chance to prove its worth (Campaign, 13 October).
However, senior Tory figures believe the party would opt for Maurice
Saatchi, who has handled its past four general election campaigns, if an
outstanding debt to his former agency is paid off.
Saatchis decided to allow the Tories to repay the money it spent on ads
at the 1992 election in instalments on condition that Saatchis kept the
account for the next election. To change agencies before then, the
Tories have to settle the remaining debt.
While Tory officials admit that some donors might baulk at paying off
the money, they hope to find a backer who would understand the
importance of recalling Maurice Saatchi for what promises to be the
party’s stiffest electoral test since 1979.
M&C Saatchi is said to be confident that a benefactor will be found and
that it will win the general election work. Although John Major would
like to delay polling day until 1997, party officials would like the
election agency to be in place by next spring or summer.