TBWA rebukes criticism of negative election advertising

LONDON - TBWA/London has hit back at criticism that it relied too heavily on negative advertising when it helped Labour to victory in the June general election.

Andrew McGuinness, the agency's managing director, strongly defended its

campaign when he spoke at a reception held by the Advertising

Association during Labour's annual conference in Brighton this week.

He responded to criticism of Labour's ads by Liberal Democrat delegates

at the AA's fringe meeting during their conference last week, when

Robert Bean, the chairman of the party's agency, banc, insisted that

positive political ads could work.

McGuinness said: "In an advertising context, not only was it Labour's

right but its duty to highlight the inadequacies of its political


Recalling Qualcast's "Less bovver than a hovver" campaign, he said

Labour had a similar duty to show up the failures of the Tories while

they were in power.

He said the poster showing William Hague with Margaret Thatcher's hair,

which was conceived at the end of last year, was meant to demonstrate

the Tories' incompetence in the past and their likely failure if they

regained office.

McGuinness insisted that not all of TBWA's ads were negative. He pointed

to its pre-election push thanking people for voting for Labour and for

change in 1997, and its "Work goes on" drive in April this year. He also

cited its "urgent reminder" to vote for schools and hospitals on the eve

of the polling day in June.

McGuinness revealed that TBWA had used "scenario planning", producing

hundreds of ads on 30 to 40 issues in case they were needed during the