I bet that Conservative Party communication planners didnâ€™t imagine that the result of the billboards of David Cameron plastering poster sites up and down the country this week (click the thumbnail for the full image) is the soft backlash that has taken place.
Just about the only comment youâ€™ll find online is ridicule over the obvious airbrushing of Cameronâ€™s face.
Indeed, the ridicule has already prompted a number of parody websites that focus not only on the airbrushing but also on alternate messages about Cameronâ€™s and his partyâ€™s policies if they win the general election that will happen sometime within the next five months.
In the best spirit of political mockery comes mydavidcameron.com, an excellent parody with a highly-amusing collection of user-generated content.
You can download a template (JPG image), create your own poster and upload it for display on the website.
On the face of it, the ridicule is pretty mild and I canâ€™t see it being damaging in the long term. It does provide an alternate topic to talk about rather than the awful weather we’ve had in the past few weeks.
Yet it does illustrate a significant hurdle David Cameron â€“ and every politician â€“ has to overcome if heâ€™s really to be taken seriously as the potential future leader of the UK: trust and being believed.
Rather, lack of trust and belief by the voter after scandals such as the MPs expenses last summer (and still ongoing). I don’t know about you but for me that was like icing on the cake of complete distrust and lack of belief in the whole lot of them.
The best assessment Iâ€™ve seen so far on the Cameron poster comes from branding expert Mary Portas writing in yesterdayâ€™s Telegraph, who begins:
If I were David Cameron, the first thing I would do is sack my advertising agency. The new poster is an utter disaster: itâ€™s so obviously been airbrushed and he looks like a rosy-faced cherub, not a prospective prime minister. They were bonkers to do it, and he was a fool to let them. The very act of airbrushing is a deceit, whichever way you look at it, and for a politician to have that done says: â€œIâ€™m not happy with the face I have and the face that Iâ€™m showing to you, the voters.â€
The whole problem with politicians today is that we never believe a word that comes out of their mouths, and we donâ€™t feel they understand us or our priorities. Presenting us with this fake, high-gloss image of perfection suggests that the Conservatives have little understanding of whatâ€™s going on in the real world.
And I did like Portasâ€™ recommendation for positioning Cameron:
[â€¦] Right now, if he were a supermarket, heâ€™d be Somerfield, which doesnâ€™t really impinge on anyoneâ€™s consciousness. It sells exactly the same ranges as everywhere else and isnâ€™t particularly cheap, just very convenient. You pop into it because itâ€™s there, not because youâ€™re actively seeking it out â€“ and you certainly wouldnâ€™t rave to other people about what a fabulous retail experience you had there.
Cameron should be positioning himself as Waitrose, which has been built on quiet trust and consumer confidence that itâ€™s delivering long-term quality. The high-risk introduction of its Essentials value line was a real coup that chimed with the mood of shoppers. Cameron needs to resonate with the electorate in the same way.
All of this, though, is part of the opening salvoes of the general election battle thatâ€™s coming.
Iâ€™m looking forward to an interesting political communication landscape in the coming months.