Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Blame it on the ads?

As part of the general interminable Brexit post-mortem, the ad industry has been doing plenty of its own navel-gazing. Could the advertising campaign for the 'Remain' camp have been stronger, more effective? Did the advertising even contribute to the failure to swing votes?

By all accounts, the process and way of working for the (Britain) Stronger In (Europe) campaign sounded like a mess. Hardly surprising, given that 'the client' was a committee composed of representatives of various political hues. The strong leadership that was missing generally in the country was also missing here. And while the ad agencies blaming the client may sound like bad workmen blaming their tools (if you'll excuse the expression), they may well have had a point.

The lead agency, M&C Saatchi, have recently released a number of 'ads that got away', and these give a fascinating glimpse into the campaign development.

What's clear to me is that there seem to be a number of strategic directions here:

There's the classic 'fear' card - i.e. 'Weaker Out' rather than 'Stronger In' - Farage as Hitler, Hand Grenade, Johnson/Gove/Farage/Duncan-Smith as bogey-men generally.

There are a couple of interesting, more positive ideas, although these are a little weak in execution and don't 'go anywhere' - 'Don't leave it lead it' and 'The more you have to live for the more you want to live in Europe'

Finally, there's an 'old people are stupid and irresponsible' campaign - 'It's not their future, it's ours'

But the biggest mistake, going by this lot, is that the ad agency people who have developed these ideas are trapped in their own social media echo chamber.

They are talking to themselves.

This is the danger of spending too much time on Twitter and Facebook. You are lulled into a false sense of security about 'how people think'.

I've got friends who voted in, and friends who voted out. Interestingly, those who voted out tend to be less active on social media. After the result, I deliberately went out of the comfort of my newsfeed, which was full of links to angry (and increasingly dull) blog articles of the 'no, I won't calm down' variety. I looked at the Brexit page, I looked at articles from the 'Leave' camp - and I learned a lot.

I have also probably inadvertently got myself down as a right-wing loony extremist, as far as Facebook is concerned, going by some of the page suggestions I now have.

But the moral is - products or politics - step 1, before any of the creative fun starts - get into the minds of the people you're communicating with.

How do they tick?

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