These previously unseen posters reveal a lot about the dynamics of politics in the UK for that brief period of timeby Ben Shimshon / December 10, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
In the summer of 2007, between 27th June, when he took over as Prime Minister and 5th October, when he announced there would not be an early election, Gordon Brown felt, to many swing voters, like the Prime Minister that Britain wanted and needed.
As part of Brown’s polling team, led by Deborah Mattinson, I spent much of August 2007 in marginal seats, running focus groups with swing voters to test a set of draft campaign posters created by Labour’s advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi.
Those posters, and swing voters’ reactions to them, reveal a lot about the dynamics of politics in the UK for that brief period of time.
The only ad to make it into the public domain was the one with which the Saatchi team had won the Labour account earlier in the year: “Not flash. Just Gordon.” It was a real favourite in the groups. The poster clearly spoke to the qualities that Brown had established in the public mind over more than a decade as Chancellor: strength, experience, seriousness of purpose.
But it also capitalised ingeniously on the short-lived goodwill that much of the electorate felt towards their new Prime Minister. For this brief period, Brown’s manifest weak points—an awkwardness in front of the camera; dishevelled appearance; shyness, even—were perceived as evidence that he was what the voters were looking for: honest; unspun; straightforward.
The implicit comparison to both Blair and Cameron was obvious to voters. “It’s exactly right—he’s a bit rough around the edges, but in a good way.”
Another set of draft posters made the compa…