That the Tories have money to burn is clear from the ads they plastered in several of the newspapers and on strategic ad sites yesterday. Ads are to some extent a matter of taste. They are also a matter of judgement. If I thought they were good, I would say so. Or at least, given how hard I find it to be nice about anything Tory, I would say they’re not bad. I can’t. They are crap.
For those who missed them, they were a full page picture of a rather gloomy Parliament at night-time, the middle of the great old building blacked out, and a dark blue, green, light blue three-strap slogan saying YEAR FOR CHANGE.
There is nothing on it to say it is an ad for the Tories, and I can hear now the discussion among the ad execs and the party strategists that led to it. ‘We need a teaser, something that just whets the appetitite for the big campaign to come.’ ‘People don’t like politics and politicians, so we need something that is pro-Tory but non-political.’ ‘The brand is change – popular. Not Tories – not popular. That has to come next.’ Yeah right.
There are two types of political ads and political admen. Those designed and determined to win awards. And those likely and desperate to shift votes. This one does neither.
When I showed it to a number of random people, despite the fact I am an evidently political source, not one person thought it was from the Tory Party. The most common response was that it was for (or rather against) global warming. One or two thought it was about MPs’ expenses. Greenpeace got a mention. So did the Olympics and the World Cup, Lloyds Bank, Barack Obama, the Green Party and the Lib Dems. One (admittedly the youngest) thought it was for (or by) Gordon Brown.
Others had literally no idea. It said nothing to them.That is because the prior branding work has not been done. If David Cameron’s press conferences and speeches had made more of an impact, the new Tory branding would have been more recognisable, and the public might have made a link.
But he has said so little of lasting substance that these hugely expensive ads are like drops of water falling wastefully into a dank pool.
The good news for Labour is that the Tories seem to think ‘time for a change’ is all they need.
When I heard last week they had taken out a stack of new adverts in the press, I had a little muse about what they might do.
With the kind of money they have, thanks to Belize billionaire backer Lord Ashcroft, I was expecting them to set out a background argument, either about Labour, or themselves, both if they had any sense.
But that would have meant agreeing on what to say. And there they have a problem. So best to say nothing. It means the approach seems to be ‘If you’ve got the money, waste it.’ Great slogan. Not.
PS spot on comments from Professor David Woods, chief adviser on London schools, on the uninformed prejudices of the chattering classes against State comprehensive schools.
Standards in State schools have risen, and I would argue that kids in State schools get a far more rounded education than those driven by parental angst and often ignorance to private schools.
A lot of this is about the way the media cover State schools. And that in turn is driven by the fact that a huge majority of key opinion formers send their own children to private schools, and present a distorted picture of what happens in them so as to justify their own decisions. As I have said before. And will say again from time to time no doubt.