A fifth reason for Stronger In supporters to remain positive

Stephen Bush, special correspondent for the New Statesman, has written an article which tries to help Remain supporters believe that – despite a string of recent polls putting Leave ahead – there are four reasons to suggest the only way isn’t exit.

It’s a brilliant article and I would like to add a fifth reason to give hope to those who want Britain to stay in the EU:

I believe there is evidence to suggest that the air war is being won by Stronger In.

The ‘air war’ – the media narrative around an election – is a significant factor in the result of any election as it colours the information that the electorate use to decide which way to vote.

One of the reasons why Donald Trump dominated the Republican primary contest is that he dwarfed the earned media coverage of every other candidate; even when the field thinned to three candidates in April, Trump was still getting 100% more earned (as opposed to bought) TV coverage than his nearest opponent Ted Cruz.

Indeed in every US Presidential election since 1970 the share of earned media won by a candidate has been the best predictor of success (better than both nominations and donations).

You win the air war by bombarding newsrooms and news sources with stories, films and photos.  When journalists are scouring Twitter in order to prepare a piece on ‘the horserace’ for the evening news or the next day’s headlines, content from the campaigns can help tip the balance on the nature of the coverage.

Whilst an analysis of 928 press articles by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism showed that 45 per cent were in favour of leaving while 27 per cent were in favour of staying, it seems the trend in TV coverage – which has greater reach as a source of news than print – is towards Remain.

Broadcasting watchdog News-watch have stated that from their analysis “the BBC has yet to accept that Brexit is mainstream, respectable and of significant public interest” and that they have “yet to find a programme that has been biased in favour of Brexit”.  They have conducted regular analysis of flagship BBC TV news programmes and highlighted how framing and language has favoured the Remain campaign.

And the BBC isn’t alone for perceived bias, Vote Leave feel that ITV’s coverage of the referendum is so biased towards Remain that they lodged a (unsuccessful) complaint with Ofcom.  The complaint claimed that between 6 April and 29 May, Stronger In campaigners were awarded 51 min 14 airtime versus “leave” at 39 min 29.

Vote Leave might claim that the fact that Remain are receiving greater coverage is because of institutional favouritism, but had Leave’s campaign been surprising, informative and even – dare I say it – entertaining, it’s hard to argue that these news outlets would have withheld it from their viewers.

And, least importantly, in my opinion the campaigning materials that Stronger In have deployed is of a far higher quality in terms of clarity, consistency and creative execution.  From leaflets, to online videos to Referendum Broadcasts, the Vote Leave materials have been either scarce or shoddy.

Vote Leave have flitted between flimsy claims about reinvesting money saved from leaving the EU into the NHS and pulled punches on immigration.  Stronger In on the other hand have been ruthlessly and creatively delivering a message centred on economic certainty, security and support amongst experts.

Whilst some might scoff at the idea that quality campaign materials make a difference to the nature of news coverage, it’s worth remember that journalists are people too and, like other normal people, they’re easily enchanted by simple stories told well.

 

Don’t let him sacrifice your job so he can get a better one


Labour In for Britain, the Labour Party’s campaign to remain in the EU, have been running this graphic as a paid Facebook post for a few weeks now.

It was the first advert of note which used Boris Johnson’s perceived careerism as a reason to vote to remain.

Labour In will see their audience as existing Labour voters and supporters and their task as getting them out to vote, therefore a personal attack on Jonhson with a message about jobs is a potent combination.

Johnson for many in the Labour Party represents the worst of the Conservatives: they see his manner as frustrating and lament his record as Mayor.

Labour supporters also loathe him because they know (even if they try not to admit it) that a Boris Johnson-led Conservative Party would be a formidable opponent in the 2020 general election: swing voters were twice won over by Boris’ charms in London. 

The headline in the advert has a lovely rythm to it and the piece as a whole is very well put together.

There’s a few pieces being written about Stronger In adopting a “take out Boris” strategy in the final weeks.

Personal attacks often backfire and they would do well to make sure that any negative ads targeting Boris are – like this one – linked tightly to an area of policy.

The Gamblers

Gamble with your future - remain poster boris gove farage

The Stronger In campaign have released a brilliant new poster accusing the leaders of the Leave campaign of gambling with the future of the country.

The poster dramatises two undeniable truths:

  1. The politicians acting as the public face of Brexit are perceived as mavericks, even by those that support them.
  2. Voting to Leave represents a step into the political unknown relative to voting Remain.

As with all great political posters, this poster brings to life an idea or issue which the public will likely have already thought, but it does it in a way that is surprising and visually arresting.

And, like other great negative ads throughout British political advertising history, there’s enough wit – found in the setting, the characterisation of the politicians and their facial expressions – to take some of the sting out of the attack and keep the public onside.

To the people who conceived it and those who bought it – well played.

The irony of Cameron’s camp accusing the leaders of the Leave campaign of being gamblers won’t be lost on Economist readers; my favourite cover from that publication in recent years was in the week after Cameron pledged an in / out referendum in early 2013.

Cameron_Gambler

 

Gordon Brown – lead not leave

It’s another year, another referendum where the future direction of a nation is at stake and Gordon Brown has made another barnstorming speech.

The video has had over 2 million views on Facebook, which is impressive even if they have put some money behind it.

I like the way the location of the film is relevant to the speech; and didn’t they get lucky with the weather!  You can pay a lot of money to fly to sunny locations half way across the world just to achieve that lovely lens flare.

The copy-writing is very good indeed (aside from the slightly tricksy ‘fight with arguments and not with armaments’ line).

The sense of patriotism that the film managers to evoke is incredible and the sentiment of the whole piece is very neatly summed up with the end line “lead not leave”.

It’s almost worth having another referendum in a couple of years time just so that we’re in with a chance of getting a third referendum-themed masterclass in oratory by our man from Kirkcaldy.

 

Sticky language

DIY recession stronger in

I’ve just come across this graphic that was released on Monday of this week, the same day that David Cameron and George Osborne wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph warning that Brexit would put the British economy in serious danger.

I’m sharing it because I thought both the article and the accompanying graphic included a brilliant piece of ‘sticky’ messaging and is an example of the sort of language that provides the ideal springboard for developing creative communications.

If you read the excerpt below, the first two paragraphs are decidedly standard. They use the sort of language and terminology that one would expect from a politician making an argument.

However, the final paragraph takes the straight information and gives it a twist so that it speaks to the audience in a language they can relate to.

“The analysis produced by the Treasury today shows that a vote to leave will push our economy into a recession that would knock 3.6 per cent off GDP and, over two years, put hundreds of thousands of people out of work right across the country, compared to the forecast for continued growth if we vote to remain in the EU.

In a more severe shock scenario, Treasury economists estimate that our economy could be hit by 6 per cent, there would be a deeper recession and unemployment would rise by even more.

This would be, for the first time in our history, a recession brought on ourselves: a DIY recession.”

The phrase ‘DIY recession’ conjures up vivid imagery and perhaps personal associations that should result in better retention of the information.

This language is useful for communicating with the public, but it is also helpful for creative teams developing further ideas for posters, videos and leaflets.

The graphic developed by Stronger In is solid enough, but it wouldn’t surprise me if M&C Saatchi are beavering away at creating something which makes the point in a more evocative and newsworthy way.

Vote Leave’s new poster uses Turkey as a bogeyman

Vote Leave - Turkey is joining the EU - poster

Vote Leave have released a poster depicting a passport as an open door alongside the claim that Turkey is joining the EU.  The stated intention behind the poster is that it aims to highlight to the electorate the additional number of people who might legally migrate to the UK if Turkey was allowed to join.

The poster is a follow-up to a video released two days prior which accused David Cameron of being duplicitous about the likelihood of Turkey joining the EU.

Vote Leave have thus far struggled to establish a bogeyman for their campaign.  You can read about why that might be here.

But the fact that they’ve done a few bits on Turkey suggests to me that their research shows that a proportion of floating voters would lean towards Leave if they were told that the secular middle eastern republic would join the EU in the short to medium term. In short, they’re testing the waters of making Turkey their bogeyman.

This is the first time that Vote Leave have deployed a poster about immigration.  The fear of accusations of racism is surely the only reason for the hesitation, as poll after poll shows that immigration is a top issue for voters and that those who favour limiting it highly correlate with those likely to vote Leave.

Some are indeed accusing the poster of deploying racist dog-whistle tactics, rather than raising legitimate concerns around immigration numbers, but whether Vote Leave stick with this line of attack will depend on poll numbers not headlines.

Previously the Vote Leave campaign had been pushing a message, requiring a fair amount of mental gymnastics, around spending the money we’d save from EU membership on the NHS (see poster below).

The Vote Leave strategy up until now must have been based on the assumption that they wouldn’t win 51% of votes cast with an immigration-only message.  As they judge that to be the case, they’ve been trying to add to their supporter base those who care deeply about the NHS.

It will be interesting to see if this Turkey activity is the first evidence of Vote Leave giving up on their coalition-building agenda and shifting their focus towards what most people assumed, prior to the campaign, would be their core message.

 

 

 

#VOTIN

Stronger In have released a new campaign titled VOTIN which aims to appeal to da yoof.  There’s a short video (above) some print advertising (below) and a website.

The campaign encourages viewers to register to vote by featuring activities that (Stronger In suspect) will appeal to young people and suggests that their viability is at stake in the EU referendum.

The reason Stronger In will be targeting youth is that most research suggests young people are very likely to be pro-EU, however, very few are reckoned to be registered –around only 20%.

Various commentators and broadcasters are accusing of it of oversimplifying the debate and of patronising young people, but I would be surprised if the intended audience see or read such charges, such is their want for avoiding traditional news coverage.

I’m betting Stronger In will be using these materials to directly target young people on social media channels and the fact that the materials resemble the sorts of communication that the audience are likely to engage with makes sense to me.

Could it have been delivered in a less cringeworthy way? Yes, probably.  But is this better than using their existing work and sticking some media money behind targeting a younger audience? Certainly.