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The big EURef advertising news is that the Saatchis are back

May 13th, 2016
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Saathci & Saatchi ad GE1979

Roger’s latest advertising commentary on the campaign

‘Facts aren’t important. What matters is what the public believes’

I noticed last week that Peter Marsh had died. He was a larger than life self publicist and showman and unlike most advertisers who believed in letting their work sell the agency he believed that selling himself sold the work. A big fan of Thatcher his agency was the fastest growing in the 80’s. His ads were recognisable by a catchy jingle and a showy campaign. ‘Gotta Lotta Bottle’, ‘It’s the Wonder of Woolies,’ ‘Harp Stays Sharp’ were all the work of Allen Brady Marsh.

He famously invited the board of British Rail to his agency for a pitch. When they arrived they found ashtrays overflowing a stained carpet and a receptionist filing her nails. After being kept waiting half an hour Marsh appeared  and told them that now they knew what it felt like to be a British Rail customer…..they won the account and ‘The Age of the Train’ had arrived.

As Prime Minister and someone well versed in the silky skills of advertising many had high hopes for Cameron’s leadership of REMAIN. A well-planned and researched campaign was the least they expected. So it was something of a surprise when we awoke last Sunday to headlines that looked like an ad for ‘Dr Strangelove’.

Where were Adam and Eve/DDB during this fiasco?

…..being replaced by the Saatchis. The team that produced thirty years of negative campaigns for the Tories are back together. No wonder LEAVE looked shell-shocked, accusing ITV of being REMAIN’s stooges. The Saatchis can have that effect.

The reasons for the Saatchi involvement isn’t just for old times sake (a £7,000,000 spend is small beer). An IPA poll found that 88% of advertisers support REMAIN with only 4% supporting  LEAVE so concern for their clients may also have been a factor.

And then there’s Boris. Another larger than life showman who believes selling himself is the way to sell his campaign. On message/Off message doesn’t apply when HE is the message. His whistle stop tours are sell-outs but successful campaigns need USP’s more than a performance. No one seems to know where he’s been getting advice but so much dependance on one personality seems a very risky strategy.

REMAIN’s most obvious assets are LEAVES unanswered questions. ‘What would happen next? Who would be ruling the country after the vote? Which of the rainbow coalition would we want as our new Prime Minister? What would the upheaval be?

LEAVE have immigration and a sense that the EU are in a mess. Nigel Lawson claimed a vote for REMAIN was to risk 77 million Turks at our border. It sounded far-fetched but the gasps from the Question Time audience were real.

Very few of these arguments are cutting through and that’s why they need professionals. It’s what they’re good at. There’s an old saying that trying to sell without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you’re doing but no one else does.

Roger has been a regular poster on PB since 2004