A tale of two broadcasts. Roger’s critique of the opening two broadcasts

A tale of two broadcasts. Roger’s critique of the opening two broadcasts



[Political] ‘advertising isn’t about truth fairness or rationality, but about mobilising deeper and more primitive layers of the human mind.’ – Brian Eno.

The first two campaign broadcasts couldn’t have been more different. A brutally apocalyptic one for LEAVE and a bright new tomorrow for REMAIN.

The REMAIN spot features 14 month old Sam on a baby bike in his garden and through misty slow-motion sequences a young female voice-over talks us through the opportunities young Sam will have throughout his life if we REMAIN in the EU.

He could be driving an earth mover or working in a factory with some very cheerful chums or running his own business……while watching these smiley workers the voice over tells us how the EU makes all this possible.

When a fact needs emphasising there’s a title superimposed ‘Over 3 Million Jobs……Over 200,000 businesses…..£66 million a day….’ As we near the end a gentle reminder of the £4300 it would cost every family if we leave and then seamlessly back to blonde haired blue eyed Sam and his happy family.

LEAVE open with a brief history of the NHS before a warning that it’s now in DANGER. Through a series of graphics and a female voice over we learn that every week we pay £350 million to the EU “MONEY THAT’S WASTED”. Then in urgent tones it lists …..Albania… Macedonia… Montenegro… Serbia…..TURKEY…. as the graphic points Dad’s Army style arrows from these countries to the UK plotting the course of the invasion.

Briefly recovering from this hammer blow the voice over asks what will happen to ‘OUR MONEY WHEN THE EU FACES THE NEXT BAILOUT?’….and just as you’re about to slit your wrists the mood changes……

Gentle guitar music and we’re transported to the kitchen of an elderly woman who has become unwell. The screen splits into two. On one side her story if we ‘REMAIN’ on the other if we ‘LEAVE’. No dialogue. Just two parallel stories with the titles ‘In the EU’ / ‘Out of the EU’

‘In the EU’ there are queues brooding nurses a full and threatening waiting room a snarling looking foreigner being shepherded to the front of the queue… an interminable wait. On the non EU side smiling staff small queues a comfortable bed and a nice doctor checking all went well……It looks like an ad for BUPA.

Who was the REMAIN broadcast aimed at? Clearly not Sam. At 14 months he’s far too grown up to be impressed by this cheesy nonsense. Even the £4300 was lost in this tepid blancmange. A small reminder near the end that little Sam would be able to work or play in 28 countries was as inspiring as it got. It left me wondering how John Lewis can produce a Christmas ad that makes the news for several cycles yet creating a vision that affects all our futures struggles to command our attention for three minutes.

LEAVE’s apocalyptic vision of an enlarged EU with its Dad’s Army graphics is probably targeted at elderly Labour voters. Dire warnings of a collapsing NHS have been the bedrock appeal to Labour voters at every election I can remember. Rarely do they go as far as this and rarely do they finger the culprit so confidently. The claims and scares are outlandish even by the standards of this referendum.

But honesty in political ads is not a requirement so you might as well get away with what you can and negative advertising works. It certainly showed more passion than the bland effort from REMAIN.

LEAVE 6/10 REMAIN 4/10


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

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