Watch Out! There’s Less Police About

Ken Livingstone and the Labour Party have released a new advert in today’s Evening Standard that attacks Boris Johnson for cutting police numbers.

The ad, with the headline ‘Watch Out!  There’s Less Police About’, shows Boris Johnson carring a ‘SWAG’ bag filled with London police offices and asks people to help Boris Stoppers by texting  ‘Copper’.  The advert coincides with the launch of Ken’s ‘Policing Pledge’.

The aim of the ad is to convince people that police numbers are down and that crime is on the rise.  It’s notoriously easy to pick and choose police statistics to make them work for you, so winning the communication battle on crime will be very important for both Boris and Ken’s campaign.

The tone, look and feel of the campaign is similar to the ‘Fare Deal’ campaign in the respect that it’s light-hearted and jovial.  This is a mistake.

Crime is a much more serious issue for Londoners and this copy and visual treatment seems to slightly trivialise the policy agenda.

Had the ‘Fare Deal’ campaign been very aggressive, serious and doomsaying it would have seemed over-the-top.  Yes, fare rises are irritating, but an ad that communicated unbridled outrage would have misjudged the public mood.  Fare rises are a relatively minor irritant, not the end of the world.

Crime, however, is something which the electorate take much more seriously and as such it gives you license to ramp up the drama in your advertising.  This feels like a real missed opportunity to build some negative sentiment against Boris Johnson.

I can understand why they’ve tried to keep some consistency.  It’s good advertising practice for brands as it builds up a more immediate recognition of your comms and improves awareness.  However, this is only worth pursuing – to the detriment of your creative work – if people are likely to actually build up an awareness of your style.

Ken will probably run less than 20 adverts in his whole campaign.  The chances of any normal person catching a glimpse of this cartoon style and immediately and subconsciously registering it as associated with Ken is zero.

*** Update *** here’s a higher resolution version:


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