How would the French save Gordon Brown?

I’m a great believer in giving my students some difficult tasks. It helps to separate the men from the boys or, very often, the women from the girls. Or, in this particular instance, les dames from les filles, as the class in question came from Sup de Pub – the leading advertising school in Paris.

The brief I gave yesterday morning to a group of would-be account handlers and planners was to save Gordon Brown from catastrophic defeat with just 24 hours of the British election campaign remaining. They only had a few hours to work on a problem that would frustrate even the most seasoned admen and political pundits.

There were a number of interesting ideas for tactical media, including the distribution of Oyster card holders at London tube stations tracked on social media such as Twitter and Foursquare. We had a lengthy debate as to whether such giveaways constituted a bribe under electoral law. To my shame, having stood on a couple of occasions as a parliamentary candidate, I was a little vague on this point, but thought we were probably on dodgy ground.

Creatively the strongest campaign idea was one which used iconic British buildings as a metaphor for the economy. We saw Tower Bridge crumbling, with a warning that you shouldn’t dump the architect of the recovery at a critical moment. The argument was that we could change the building to reflect a local landmark in key marginal constituencies, which I thought worked very well.

Strategically, there were even braver suggestions from other groups. Recognising the gaffe-prone Gordon Brown as a source of many of Labour’s problems, some suggested creative work which had a strong ‘mea culpa’ theme. Or we could go a stage further – removing Gordon Brown from the equation entirely by admitting publicly that the election wasn’t about just one man. It was about everybody else. Coming hot on the heels of Labour Ministers’ calls for tactical voting and a Labour candidate suggesting Brown was the worst-ever Prime Minister, the strategy had a plausible, if rather desperate, feel to it.

One thing’s for sure. It’s always good to get the impartial observations of outsiders on any advertising campaign. And objectivity is often in short supply when it comes to elections.

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