Election 2005: Top 5 election moments

From post-war 'charters' to slick New Labour, these are the campaigns that shaped modern political advertising.

1951 - 'Set the people free' was the Conservative slogan in 1951, embodied in a series of 'charters' detailing innovative policies in all the major areas, such as home-building (pictured).

After the 'strength through misery' austerity regime of Sir Stafford Cripps, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the post-war Labour government, the slogan and the campaign resonated with voters fed up with food rationing. It summarised in pithy form what the British people were feeling - a sense of oppression following nearly 12 years of diet by government fiat.

1979 - The Conservative campaign for this election made the name of Saatchi & Saatchi. The slogan 'Labour isn't working' said succinctly what everybody had been saying in a more roundabout way, and creative advertising celebrated the theme. An iconic poster showed an interminable queue outside an unemployment office, while a film depicted British citizens being tried before a judge for seeking basic economic freedoms. Party political broadcasts were reinvented as satirical dramas, and the old 'talking head' format was abolished.

1983 - This was a disastrous campaign for the Labour Party. It is significant that nobody can ever recall its advertising for this election - the folk memory is of Michael Foot's bus-top wanderings and antediluvian ranting.

In truth, the 1983 election sounded the death-knell of Old Labour; it serves as a permanent reminder to New Labour of why it exists. Its significance lies in what it taught the party about the need for co-ordination, tight discipline, the fabrication of visual and verbal rhetoric, and control over the exposure of key political figures.

1992 - The years after the disaster of 1983 saw an overhaul in the Labour Party's political communication. But the 1992 election proved it still had lessons to learn before it could win the trust of the 'Middle England' voters that stood between it and government. The enigma of this campaign was that the party excelled in terms of conventional advertising, running a professional and polished campaign, yet still lost, raising questions about the implementation of marketing in a political context. Labour's advertising sought to present the look of a government in power, featuring pseudo-ministers speaking in neo-classical settings. But voters look for evidence of authenticity, and all the gloss seemed to suggest the party was hiding something. A message is given out intentionally, but meaning can also be transmitted unintentionally. In contrast, John Major's soapbox and the brutal, powerful Tory advertising (pictured) succeeded in convincing voters.

1997 - The 1997 Labour campaign showed the party had mastered the art of political communication. 'It's time for change' was the slogan, and it stirred an emotional chord after nearly two decades of Conservative government. It articulated a national mood and gave focus and direction to the communication.

Much of Labour's advertising focused on creating a persona for Tony Blair, who seemed to personify the 'change' implied by the slogan. The symbol of the campaign, a bulldog, was cheekily borrowed from the iconography of political reaction - it dominated the advertising and explicitly flaunted the fact that Labour was no longer a socialist party. The party's advertising even dared to suggest a spiritual dimension to Labour's cause, with one sequence featuring an angel.


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