As the EURef poster campaigns are about to start Roger evaluates their effectiveness

As the EURef poster campaigns are about to start Roger evaluates their effectiveness

Tory poster from GE2015 campaign

Hit Hard Hit Fast and Keep Hitting’ (Jeremy Sinclair, Saatchis)

Ernest Hemingway believed the best thing he ever wrote was a six word advert “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn”. You can understand why a novelist might be happy with such an effective use of six words. If he’d spent his time in advertising he might have honed his technique further and managed something equally effective but using only three. “Beanz Meanz Heinz”.

After several weeks waiting for the Local and Mayoral elections the REFERENDUM has finally reached the top of the list. While LEAVE are still hitching their wagon to Boris REMAIN are onto their second agency.

After designing the logo and overseeing the launch Adam and Eve have been replaced by the Saatchis. Whether this is the campaign moving to a more aggressive phase or whether it was planned all along I don’t know. What we do know is it signals a change of tone. It could be that a more vigorous than expected start from ‘Vote LEAVE’ panicked them into action.

The Saatchis have a reputation for confrontational campaigns.

    Posters are particularly good for setting the agenda. Their value is multiplied several times by free exposure in the press and TV. The most effective often involve finding a flaw in your opponent then lampooning them with humour.

TBWA did one for Labour in which William Hague morphed into Maggie. ‘Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid’. You could almost hear Tory voters saying ‘I wish’. The same agency was responsible for the ‘Fagin’ posters and the infamous ‘flying pigs’.

Though they didn’t intend to be racially offensive a clever rebuttal made them not only ineffective but damaging to Labour. Even without the controversy they would have failed. Michael Howard was never a Fagin – Bill Sykes perhaps – he didn’t have the guile or pathos. As for flying pigs… it’s doubtful many knew who Letwin was let alone what his flight of fantasy was supposed to be. And they weren’t funny.

The Saatchis for the Tories had a better track record. Their iconic ‘Labour isn’t Working’ was ingenious on every level. Ed Miliband in Salmond’s pocket was also a hit. A captivating image of an enfeebled Miliband answerable to Salmond struck a chord and pointed to the chaos that was likely to follow.

‘Labour’s policy on Arms’ with a soldier holding his hands up was an advertising classic. Witty but brutal.

‘Demon eyes’ failed because it broke the golden rule. The public didn’t believe ‘Bambi’ Blair was a demon. Knowing that Saatchi research thoroughly I can only think their focus groups were exceptionally far-sighted. Another Saatchi failure was ‘Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking’. Too much Orwellian Big Brother for British tastes but a good example of a poster campaign setting the agenda.

Visible work so far has been limited. REMAIN used some surviving second world war veterans who in a scripted piece to camera told us they’d fought the war to bring Europe closer together. LEAVE did a vox pop on whether £350 million a week was better spent on Europe or the NHS. Both preaching to the converted. Unlikely either would sway the undecideds.

Hitler made another appearance. Being Boris it’s unlikely to have consequences but it does point to the dangers of being too dependant on a single loose cannon and particularly when it drowns out more sober commentators.

The next few weeks are likely to see more organised activity from both sides and an appointment from LEAVE will hopefully lead to a more focussed campaign.

Roger has worked in advertising for all his career

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