Having been hailed for her "understanding" of advertising on her appointment as the Culture Secretary in 2012, Maria Miller's protracted departure from the post last week showed two other less-welcome qualities that critics often associate with the industry.
When even that most tribal Conservative Party loyalist Lord Tebbit criticised Miller as "arrogant and greedy", joining voices that included the former Speaker Baroness Boothroyd, there was little doubt that it was time for her to go, whether she liked it or not.
The legacy of Miller, a former executive at Grey, is difficult to determine. Although the IPA’s Paul Bainsfair says that she understood the contribution of the creative industries to the British economy, she will probably be best-remembered for the expenses scandal that led to her being crowbarred out of a job she wasn’t very good at.
While her successor, Sajid Javid, may not have the experience of working in the creative industries that Miller has (for what good it did us), the backstory of this second-generation immigrant who rose from a humble background through hard graft at least contrasts with the complacency, avarice and sense of entitlement of his predecessor. With threats to the industry showing no sign of going away, we must hope that his appreciation of the value of advertising to the economy is rather more acute.
In the same week that changes were made at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, a brand that had developed attributes similar to the ones ascribed to Miller was seeking to throw off these shackles with its first agency-originated advertising campaign. The work for Ryanair – so long associated with a hateful booking system, appalling customer service and a self-publicist chief executive who seemed to delight in "pissing people off" – was apparently designed to engage the consumer rather than test how effective the self-regulation of advertising works.
If Ryanair sheds its old image, it would make an interesting case study on the power of advertising for lapsed clients
The TV and print campaign, created by Dare, is actually pretty good given the tough brief and rightly, if tacitly, acknowledges Ryanair’s previous brand failings.
For Dare, the project is a welcome one after a rocky couple of years and gives the agency something to get its teeth into following the loss of Gocompare.com, for which the advertising through Fold7 now plumbs depths previously thought unimaginable.
The public response to the Ryanair campaign has anecdotally been positive. If the airline manages to shed its old image (which also depends on Michael O’Leary keeping his mouth firmly shut), then it would make an interesting and timely case study on the power of advertising for lapsed clients or those with similar perception issues. It might also make interesting reading for Miller as she reflects on her failings and perhaps considers rehabilitation.
This article was first published on