The BREXIT referendum: Roger’s latest update on what’s happening in the PR/Ad industry

The BREXIT referendum: Roger’s latest update on what’s happening in the PR/Ad industry


“Political advertising ought to be stopped. It’s the only dishonest advertising left.” (David Ogilvy, 1965)

The last few weeks have proved him right. It’s been a free-for-all. Every claim more outlandish than the last. Every rebuttal more hyperbolic. Then last Thursday Vote Leave were appointed lead campaign, the two slogans BRITAIN STRONGER IN EUROPE and TAKE CONTROL were revealed and everyone settled down…

REMAIN are now working with Adam and Eve/DDB. LEAVE have appointed several regional PR companies primarily to arrange Boris’s whistle-stop tours. Ominously all but two have asked that their names not be published. The lack of central control is showing and REMAIN seem much the better organised.

The first week has seen the two forces assembling and there’s no doubt the bigger guns have been piling in behind REMAIN.

The first significant engagement happened on Monday. Osborne announced that leaving would cost £4,300 per household. Unlike most of his flights of fancy this has been a difficult one for LEAVE to bat away. Osborne is still Chancellor and the figures were the work of Treasury civil servants. For Tory LEAVERS to dismiss them as confected is to belittle their own government’s credibility. Despite many crying foul I sense he’s landed a blow. Maybe the first.

Today we can expect the second. A celebrity endorsement of such enormity it would make Adidas blush. REMAIN have bagged the most famous man in the world.

Celebrity endorsement can turn the fortunes of a product in the flutter of an eyelash. Think Nicole Kidman, Gary Lineker, George Clooney, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Peter Kay….. The chances are you’ll think of the product they’ve endorsed before you remember their daytime job. Kate Middleton turned around the fortunes of Reiss by just getting dressed in the morning. The public love celebrity and women are twice as likely to buy after a celebrity endorsement than men…..

…but this is a politician talking politics and people don’t love politicians. What’s more a foreign politician involving himself in another country’s affairs is rarely appreciated and has been known to galvanise an opposition.

Nonetheless he’s popular and attention grabbing and unlike a domestic politician some will see him as an honest broker. There will also be a reluctance on the part of LEAVE to be too outspoken about our closest and most powerful ally so despite some huffing and puffing LEAVE’s response will probably be muted.

LEAVE too have been rolling out the celebs. As we saw in Scotland the side offering change is seen as the active option so little surprise Sol Campbell and Ian Botham have chosen to bat for LEAVE. What they intend to bring to the party isn’t yet known but there was some consternation in Scotland when Botham referred to England as ‘an island.’

And then there’s Boris. He has become LEAVE’s figurehead. As the most charismatic figure on the LEAVE side he seems like an obvious choice. I’m not so sure. A campaign figurehead needs credibility as much as charisma and with even his own family doubting his motives that’s not his strong suit. But then… as five times more people read the headline than read the copy, perhaps they’ve got it right.

We’ll probably get some clues after we’ve seen the ‘Obama Effect’.

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

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