With the formation of a new creative forum for the Conservative
Party, Archie Norman has shown that the Tories can learn from past
Admittedly the basics of the approach are not new. The Tory Party
already restructured its communications team this summer, combining its
communications and research departments to create a ’war room’ along the
lines of Labour’s Millbank operation prior to its 1997 victory.
What the Tories are now seeking are some of the style credentials that
Blair has chased since coming into office. To do this they are drawing
on the know-how of a new generation of communications and media ’gurus’
including former media adviser to the Princess of Wales, Jane
The new group is moulded along the lines of Labour’s former Shadow
Communications Agency headed by Philip Gould,which was widely credited
with the thinking behind Labour’s rebranding in the early 1990s.
The big break with the past is that the Tories are using a non-election
year to look beyond the advertising remit at the broader picture. What
is significant is that this group has cast its net wide to take in a
whole range of communications activities, including PR, as part of the
It shows a recognition that advertising, no matter how controversial,
will not, in isolation, change voting patterns. The Conservative and
Labour campaign spends during the 1997 election were roughly the same,
but it is significant that the Tory cash was primarily squandered on its
billboard campaign, while Labour invested it in building the formidable
Millbank communications team.
What has emerged from the exercise so far is less of a blueprint for the
Tory Party, and more of a shift in thinking. This fact alone may do more
for the Party’s credentials than any advertising campaign.