Insight and opinion

Political advertising – a political punchline or something more?

I don’t hate public art per se, but I prefer cinema. I do, however, loathe bad public art – just as I dislike, and do my best to avoid, terrible films.

As a creative you work with brands on projects for all kinds of things. Some you’ll know and love and some you’ll have no prior knowledge of, or loyalty to, whatsoever – and that’s fine. Because for that short time on the project, you become an expert. 100% committed to producing the best work no matter the client, product or service. But what if the brand is a political party, the client is a party leader and the campaign is the general election?

A creative brief just like that could soon head into the M&C Saatchi offices, if reports are anything to go by. Recent talks between the agency executives and the Conservative party have already taken place. And since M&C Saatchi has worked on Tory campaigns for the last few decades, it seems likely they will again. But are there considerations for a political campaign that lie outside those of a normal brief? Is it wrong for agencies to align themselves with a political agenda? Should they remain neutral?

The fact is, agencies working on political campaigns is nothing new. And in preparation for this year’s impromptu general election, Labour has already hired Krow and Creature of London has met with the Green Party. But one issue, if it’s an issue at all, is the question of budgets. The Conservative Party’s is, predictably, somewhat larger than the Green Party’s and even The Liberal Democrats. Fortunately, smaller budgets and great ideas are not mutually exclusive. So although the playing field is uneven, it doesn’t necessarily put one party significantly ahead of another. And like a defendant who has their day in court – everyone has a right to tell their story. Surely that’s what democracy is all about.

If anything, there’s real opportunity for agencies to elevate the conversation. None of the leaders have been in position for longer than two years, meaning there’s genuine scope to try something new. With a message that cuts through the noise, you can say something real and connect with the audience. And if so, there could be a bigger responsibility than just making great creative. Perhaps there’s a moral obligation on agencies to raise the bar, find a compelling truth and deliver something meaningful – and not just next political punchline.