The New Labour ad campaign that (sort of) never ran

The excellent University of Nottingham Department of Politics (full disclosure: I am an alumnus) and The People’s History Museum, based in Manchester, are collaborating on a twitter feed which live tweets the 1997 general election campaign 20 years on.
Yesterday they featured an article from the Daily Mirror about an ad campaign that New Labour’s ad agency at the time – BMP DDB (now Adam & Eve DDB) – pitched to their clients.

Whilst Blair didn’t agree to run the campaign – feeling it was “demeaning” – the posters still ended up in front of the public via the tabloid’s editorial coverage.

Given that New Labour would have had to seek permission from the creators of the characters (and likely pay for a license) had the posters run in paid media and the news value of “leaked posters”, it wouldn’t surprise me if a – now infamous – spin doctor had a hand in getting these aired.*

It’s hard to judge these objectively so long after the event, but my instinct is that Blair was right not to run them “officially” – highly personal attacks without any clear  basis in an issue have a rich history of backfiring.

You can follow the feed @newdawn1997.


Thanks to a couple of commenters -who pointed me towards the relevant entry in Alastair Campbell’s diaries (below) – I can confirm my suspicions are correct!


  1. If you check the New Dawn twitter feed, it has the extracts from Alastair Campbell’s diary. The Mr Men posters were the idea of the agency; Campbell liked them when he was shown them on 7 February ( But when the Roger Hargreaves estate wouldn’t allow them to be used, Campbell decides to brief the press that Tony Blair had vetoed them as being too personalised (NB in his published diary Campbell nowhere claims Blair ever expressed any opinion on them).

    For Campbell it was a lovely move: leaking the images means they are published widely and for free, and the angle that they are being vetoed by Tony Blair allows Labour to claim the moral high ground at the same time. (The third possible limb, making the Conservatives look silly for overreacting, sadly did not come off)

    This sort of thing is exactly why Campbell was so good at his job.

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