Magazine article Marketing

How the Tories Won the 87 War

Magazine article Marketing

How the Tories Won the 87 War

Article excerpt

With a week to go to voting day, the Tory advertising strategy appears to be in disarray. But it's not the first time things have looked bleak with a week to go. Tony Skinner was one of the Saatchis creative team that helped Margaret Thatcher fight and win her last general election...

On May 11 1987, Margaret Thatcher called a general election for June 11. That calendar month was one long stomach-churning head-spinning roller-coaster for all on the Saatchis election force.

Most marketers have to cope with seasonality. It is tough enough if you are selling Easter eggs or fireworks. In the government market, your brand is on sale for just one day every five years. And there is no such thing as market share - you either win or lose.

The work had started in earnest several weeks before with a presentation to the Prime Minister. Nearly 100 press ads and posters had been prepared, covering every conceivable election issue.

War chest

The work was carried into Downing Street in a large white chest labelled 'Maggie's Freezer' - enough advertising nourishment to withstand a siege. But the great polymath could not resist demonstrating that her expertise extended to advertising as well.

"No, no, no, Mr Saatchi," she said, taking exception to a comment from Maurice, "you don't understand how these things work." Maurice's glasses steamed up. The fly on the wall was abuzz.

One of the spookiest things was how compliant and productive the creative department had suddenly become. We had carte blanche to brief any team with no notice. "Let's see, today you've got nurses' pay, secondary picketing and the nuclear deterrent."

"Er, how long have we got?" they nervously enquire.

You check your watch. "Two hours and forty minutes." Two hours and 40 minutes later, there is a stack of layouts waiting.

Maggie's brief was clear. This was to be a clean fight. It was to be fought on the track record to date and the policies for the future. No smears, no personal attacks.

The brief from Conservative Central Office was rather more jugular: slag off the Loony Left, ridicule Welsh windbaggery and blow the Alliance out of the water. But then, the party chairman at the time was Norman Tebbit.

One memory of him stands out vividly. It was 11 o'clock at night at Central Office. The next party election broadcast was due on air in less than 72 hours and we did not even have a brief for it.

Tebbit's tantrums

Tebbit had just got back from campaigning in Aberdeen. He was in a vile mood, wolfing down a takeaway curry in its tinfoil container. We kept trying to steer the conversation round to the PEB. …

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