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Over the last few weeks research companies running focus groups will have been dissecting psychoanalysing and picking to death the innermost thoughts of voters.
When Seth Godin wrote “Facts are unimportant. What matters is what people believe.” This wasn’t meant as a lesson to advertisers on how to hoodwink the public. It was a warning to them that you can’t. Even testable factual statements won’t stand up against what a person believes to be the ‘truth’.
The aim in a binary contest is straightforward. Find the weakness in your opponent and pitch it against your strength. Make the differences simple and clearcut. Lynton Crosby believes that when you’ve identified those your job is done. He’s little interested how the message is delivered as long as it’s clear and oft repeated.
For the ad agency how the message is delivered is as important as the message itself. There was a radio commercial for a suntan lotion. A man with an English accent rolls out the benefits and as he speaks his accent gradually becomes West Indian. The ‘truth’ can be stretched moulded manipulated and caricatured but it can never be ignored.
The wisdom of the focus groups is known only to the agency and client but we can make an educated guess. The PM now talks of ‘Little Englanders’ and his gaze is aimed squarely at Farage.
REMAIN’s latest broadcast was a display of celebrity from streetwise to genius. Alan Sugar, Brendan Barber, Reeta Chakrabarti, Stephanie Flanders… Stephen Hawking. And the message a modest, ‘It’s NOT perfect but it’s better than the alternative.’ …..and by implication ‘the great and the good are on our side’.
(Since the broadcast they’ve added 13 Nobel Laureates to the roster. If this doesn’t do it there’s talk of signing the Pope…)
LEAVE is harder to read. As a campaign it seems amateurish but thanks to equal airtime regulations the unevenness of establishment support has been disguised.
They used the same campaign broadcast this week as they did last with diminishing impact. It’s an oddly structured film anyway with the first scene repeated at the end. After the shock effect of its first showing it’s now taken on the look of an X rated home movie.
More significantly the elderly Labour voters at whom it was originally targeted are now comfortably on board and their place taken by different ‘undecideds’. Ones more likely to be cynical of the inflated claims.
Why LEAVE have chosen to do everything in-house is a mystery. Perhaps they believe their simple immigration message doesn’t need finessing and their current polling is impressive.
Whether they can keep the cracks from showing for the next ten days is the big question. Maybe they should have heeded the words of Red Adair. “If you think using professionals is expensive you should see what it costs to use amateurs.”
Roger, who has had a long and successful career in advertising has been posting on PB since 2004