Sometimes an advertising campaign divides opinion. One person’s intriguing, provocative concept is just provocation for someone else to get on the phone to the ASA.
So when the thing that’s being advertised is divisive to begin with, it’s a safe bet that opinion is going to be divided in a pretty vocal way. Which is why it’s surprising that the government’s “Get Ready for Brexit” campaign has been universally panned by marketing experts.
On the face of it, it’s easy to see why. Let’s check out some of the criticisms:
It’s pointless, and it’s not for anyone.
Dave Trott’s pretty good at spotting a lemon. So when he tweeted out to all of ad land that
people were quick to agree. After all, anyone who’s read any news whatsoever, been on any social media whatsoever, overheard a huge percentage of pub chatter, or has been in the back of a taxi will know that Brexit’s a thing, that it’s due to happen, and that everyone’s got an opinion on it.
So saying “get ready for Brexit” is seemingly a bit like sending a message reminding people that it gets a little bit dark later in the day.
It’s badly implemented.
“Get ready for Brexit” raises a simple question. How?
Do we need to stockpile medicine?
Do we need to hoard tins of beans?
Do we need to buy Union Jack bunting?
Do we need to plan barbeques for the impromptu Brexit Bank Holiday Bonanza?
We don’t know. You’d think a campaign would take the opportunity to answer some of these questions. Perhaps in situationally-appropriate ways.
Billboard on the side of a bank?
“Get ready for Brexit. Cash out on your savings plans and buy gold.”
Outside a supermarket?
“Get ready for Brexit. Stock up on UK-brewed Carling for the Brexit Bank Holiday Bash!”
Instead, it’s just meaningless. As a public information campaign, it doesn’t inform. At all.
It’s really badly implemented
Another criticism is that the social media side of the campaign has some truly awful UX going on.
An image with two lines:
And then supporting copy asking users to “tap ‘Learn More’ for more information.”
If you’re writing a specific call to action that defines an action users can’t take, that’s not good. At best, it’s slightly comical. At worst, it’s downright confusing and frustrating.
So the ad industry is actually fairly clear on this campaign. United. We’ve got an advert for nobody, that does nothing, and does it in a really bad way.
That’s because it’s not for us. And it’s not for Brexit. It’s for something else.
Or is it the most cunning (accidental) party political advert in years?
If you flick on the news, you might have noticed that Brexit isn’t going well. Nothing’s been negotiated, and the government’s own reports suggest that a no-deal Brexit isn’t going to be good for anyone.
But despite that, a significant portion of the country want it to happen anyway.
So when the news is full of politicians across the board working together to stop Brexit from happening on October 31st, of courts saying the PM’s plan to act without parliament’s consent to deliver Brexit is illegal, and that we’re looking at another year without a resolution to Brexit, those people aren’t happy.
They’re so unhappy, that they’re deserting the political parties they usually vote for, just to vote for the one with Brexit in the name. The one with no policies beyond leaving the EU.
And that’s where this advertising campaign could start to make sense. What if the billboards aren’t designed to pass on information, or even to funnel people towards the actual Brexit preparation website? Would they still be ineffective?
Or would they signal to a part of the electorate that Boris Johnson wants to court that he’s going to deliver Brexit come hell or high water. So they should stick with him.
And while we’re all laughing at how bad this £100m public information campaign is, we’re overlooking a simple message that is laser-targeted at a very specific audience.
Believe in me, and I’ll give you what you want. Don’t listen to the papers, or the other politicians.
Listen to me.
That thing you want?
Imagine, all of that, hidden in a campaign that’s overlooked by people rubbishing this as a badly-planned, badly-written campaign..
A powerful message, targeted at a specific audience, that’s going unnoticed by the other side.
Maybe that would be worth £100m of anyone’s marketing budget?
Disclaimer: The views of Hampson Nattan Williams on Brexit and on politics in general are our own and are private. Andrew isn’t suggesting that this campaign is a misuse of public funds. This post’s purpose is to make you think about how a strong message can boost even a seemingly poor campaign. We’re copywriters, not conspiracy theorists.