Sorry guys, but REMAIN bombed in research.

I know what you’re thinking, of all the perspectives – both wildly positive and apocolyptic on BREXIT over the last couple of weeks, I haven’t read one from a poncy flowery-shirted Creative Director.

I wonder why that is?

Maybe it’s because we are sooooo over asking the public for their opinions and soooo not surprised when the answer isn’t the one we wanted.

What the hell do people (you know…those loathesome consumers out there) know about EU subsidies, trade deals and the WTO?

Apparently not as much as we’d all hoped.

What they do know about is foreigners coming over here and stealing all the jobs in factories, beating down living wages and not getting a hospital bed.

IE: The things that matter to them. The things they were promised would change.

Well, good luck with that.

For me, despite its best intentions, the strategy behind the REMAIN communication campaign was a tincey-wincey bit flawed.

Whether this was deliberate or whether I am just picking up on the overall media confusion I am not sure, but it seemed like they were targeting more or less everybody who could vote.

Yeah, because that ALWAYS works.

But we all knew that BREXIT had a huge fault line between the different generations.

If you were a client with two options on possible target markets, you’d probably choose the market that was most likely to buy your product- right?

You’d be surprised how often that doesn’t happen.

Don’t believe me? It is a well known, but well ignored, fact that the greatest buying power in consumerland is not the most targeted – 18-30 year old market – but the most overlooked, over 50s market.

Over 50s have all the money but none of the cool. Nevertheless the only time we see people of a certain age in advertising is either women having ‘windypop’ issues or men with ‘leakage’ trouble.

Now to my mind, in terms of messages the REMAIN campaign went this direction:

Don’t side with Farage or Boris, they’re racist old dickheads.

Travel and working abroad is great!

Everyone’s our friend these days.

We can work out our problems.

Don’t be a racist!

Be part of something bigger than our little island.

All good and worthy messages, depending on your opinion. But do you detect a slight youth bias? The aspirational dream of a better world where we are all friends and making each other daisy chains?

Now, to a sixty year old’s ear this is all insufferable bollocks.

EU-Campaign-Wolfgang-Tillmans---Between-Bridges5 eu-referendum-remain-campaign-posters-by-wolfgang-tillmans_dezeen_936_5

You had to dig quite a bit deeper to find anything about financial collapse, new trade deals dependent on free movement, extracating ourselves from 40 years of EU & UK law…the lack of investment, EU subsidies withdrawal, all the stuff that could have struck a chord with the over 50s.

And when they did talk about it, it was labelled ‘Project Fear’.

REMAIN had the harder brief, I grant you. As any Pharma brand knows, the promise of maintaining the ‘status quo’ isn’t that sexy.

Normal is boring. There’s a lot of walking on beaches and parks involved.

But then look at the LEAVE campaign strategy, it positively dripped with the promise of new and exciting, which any creative will tell you is a well…a walk in the park:

Get our country back.

Don’t believe the experts.

Take control.

The EU is undemocratic.

We didn’t fight in two world wars to be bossed about by Germans.

Put the money back in to our system (The NHS)

It’s not racist to want border control.

No wonder this worked for the silver-haired brigade. You see, people over 50 believe they are the experts. And they’ve seen ‘so-called experts’ be proved wrong before dammit!!. The older you get the more you want control, not partnerships and a French pen-pal. Plus, the baby-boomers were raised on WW2 films, books and comics where plucky Brits were always trying to beat or escape those pesky Germans.

Don’t think that doesn’t have a residual effect.

The LEAVE campaign didn’t have to bother with tackling the fluffy stuff because their voters weren’t interested anyway.

Like in those research groups for car commercials, there is always a mouthy know-it-all that declares: I don’t care about the cool people on the mountain road, tell me about the MPG!

But then we look at the numbers of who voted what.

75% of under 24 year olds wanted to remain.

81% of 55-64 year olds wanted to leave.

Before the vote, it was split down the middle between old and young with a little bias towards remain.

Then you look at who actually voted, which is quite different to a poll.

Reputedly, only 36% of 18-30 year olds actually bothered to make it down to the polling station.


The cool kids driving the car on the mountain road… guess what? they don’t buy new cars.

Strategically, what the REMAIN camp needed to do was talk to the older LEAVE campaign supporters in a way that related to them. Forget the fluffy bollocks angle.

This was now famously one of the ads that never ran, produced by M&C Saatchi. Personally I think it could have helped.


So then what happened?

The day after the vote The Sun publishes all the facts that will effect us now we’re out of the EU. Suddenly people were outraged and showing buyer’s remorse. “Why didn’t they tell us?’ was the question being asked in all the tabloids.

Why indeed.

Well, because REMAIN were too busy being the Coca-Cola ad on the hill, teaching the world to sing.

And now the pound is in the toilet, racists apparently feel they have a license to attack anyone who looks a bit foreign and irony or ironies, we’re having to recruit more foreigners to help negotiate our exit because we don’t have enough skilled negotiators to do it.

Perhaps the REMAIN campaign should have listened harder to their marketing experts. Perhaps a cross-party committee wasn’t the best way to choose the work, (no shit).

Or perhaps like Michael Gove, they’d simply had enough of experts.









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