The BREXIT Referendum: The advertising industry is under starters orders

The BREXIT Referendum: The advertising industry is under starters orders


PB’s Roger on the coming battle

Advertising agencies are like lawyers. They’re whores. They can be pitching for the anti smoking account at the same time as they’re shooting the new Hamlet commercial. Think what would have happened in 1979 if Labour had called the Saatchis first. We wouldn’t have had ‘LABOUR ISN’T WORKING’ and the former Tory Party chairman might now be a Labour peer.

So when I heard Adam and Eve/DDB were handling the REMAIN account it struck me as a fortunate coincidence. Their chief exec James Murphy had written a piece in ‘Campaign’ long before their appointment headlined ‘Adland needs to wake up to the dangers of Brexit.

He wrote “Anyone in business and particularly anyone in in this business should be supporting the “IN” vote. The reasons are overwhelming…” A long list of persuasive facts followed. Plenty of appeals to the head but it ended on a more emotional note, “Our agencies are held up as the best in Europe. A retreat from the bloc would create more subtle and emotional damage to our industry. Many continental clients believe we are creative, cosmopolitan and open to the world. If we vote out and go off in an isolationist sulk, that sentiment could turn.”

Meanwhile Dominic Cummings, Campaign Director of ‘VOTE LEAVE’, sent an email to several  agencies which simply said “We need an agency to help us spend 7 million quid. If interested let’s talk”. Intriguing as this invitation sounds ‘VOTE LEAVE’ hasn’t yet been appointed lead campaign. That’s being decided on Thursday.

By all accounts he has reason to be optimistic and perhaps with a hint of things to come he’s already dismissing his competitor “GRASSROOTS OUT’ as “The George Galloway Campaign”

It’s said there are only two strategies in political campaigning ‘It’s time for a change’ and ‘it’s not time for a change’ with the status quo believed to have a marked advantage.

In an interview with the Economist Cummings compares REMAIN to being locked in the boot of a car heading off to a place that we can’t see and where we know we don’t want to go. He uses the strap line ’Take control’. He says he wants this to be the theme of the LEAVE campaign.

An audacious attempt to paint LEAVE as the safer option and REMAIN as the risky gamble.

Will it work? That’s what the agency with the ‘7 million quid’ of new billing will have to find out. But it’s very smart.

What will these agencies do with their millions of quids?

Some eye catching posters for sure but that’s just the start. They’ll be expected to deliver a coherent message that gets all parties pulling in the same direction. With so many disparate groups on each side, particularly the LEAVERS it’ll take some doing.

The messages will have to be simple clear and memorable. They will have to try to convince the voters that their argument is in tune with their core values and that the alternative poses a risk. A negative campaign doesn’t have to be dull. ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ was voted by ‘Campaign’ the best poster of the last century. The two chosen advertising agencies are being offered an enormous shop window.

I doubt making the EU exciting is what this campaign is going to be about but remember the first rule of copywriting.

People don’t need a drill they need a hole.

Roger, who has had a long and successful career in advertising has been posting on PB since 2004

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