What Adland can learn from all the boredom of Brexit
Lee Trott, senior copywriter at OLIVER, is bored of Brexit - but he thinks there's actually something the creative industries could learn from how it's all been handled.
Brexit’s important. Vital, pivotal, all-encompassing. Of course it is.
But it’s also boring. Dreadfully boring. Mind-numbingly, buttock-clenchingly boring. It begs you to turn a blind eye, to look away and ignore its monotony, its stupidity. The endless circling of the same sodding issue with no resolution, like that guy pushing the boulder in Hell, or the moth coming on a little too strong to that open light bulb in the basement.
And, quite frankly, it’s the fricking Golden Age of TV, too. There’s so much genuinely phenomenal stuff to watch - it’s never been easier to turn off Brexit for something far more appealing and entertaining.
But if you can bear to study it for a bit longer (easier said than done, I know), there are more parallels between Brexit and Adland than you (or I) would like to admit. Here are a few insights I’ve gleaned to avoid Brucking things up.
Don’t doubt the power of sympathy
A month ago, I would’ve told anyone that if you see a politician you don’t like, feel free to arm yourself at the nearest McDonald’s or Five Guys with the petrol bomb of the Snowflake Generation: The Milkshake, and give them a coating.
I now think that’s wrong, for several reasons. Firstly, I only found it funny because it happened to Farage and Robinson... not to the 80-year-old man. But you can’t have one without the other, so I think it has to stop. Secondly, given the result of the European elections, I now believe the milkshaking actually helped Farage - humanised him a bit, made him more relatable. Not to people already decided, but to those on the fence.
Heavy is the hand that holds the milkshake.
And from this I’ve learnt to always be wary of going on the attack, even in advertising. If not fully thought out and done with care and purpose, it can backfire entirely. It can make you look petty and angry, and your opponent look vulnerable and relatable.
Don’t waste an endline
When I went to vote in the European elections, I noticed on the voting form that each candidate got a line for their party name, and then a sub-header underneath where it could summarise its beliefs. Only two parties made use of this line: UKIP, who wrote ‘Make Brexit Happen’ (Pulitzer-Prize winning stuff); and the Women’s Equality Party, who wrote ‘Because Equality is better for everyone’.
No other party chose to use that line to express what they stood for. But in an election like this one, where it was clear no one really knew who to vote for, if the Lib Dems, the Green Party, or Change UK had made use of it, I imagine they could have swung a few more voters their way at Point Of Sale - or POV (Point of Voting), I suppose.
So the lesson here? No one’s mind is really made up until their X is in the box, or the shopping’s in their bag. If there’s extra space to communicate at the Point of Sale or Point of Voting, use it!
Accept mistakes and learn from them. Don’t be afraid to change
Corbyn has done everything to not back a second referendum. If Labour had learned from their mistakes, and changed to back a second referendum before the European elections, I think they could’ve gotten a lot of the votes that the Green Party and Lib Dems won for overtly backing a second referendum from the start.
I’m reading a book called ‘Once An Eagle’ by Anton Myrer, and it contains a quote that’s now my mantra about flexibility: “Inflexibility is the worst human failing. You can learn to check impetuosity, overcome fear with confidence and laziness with discipline. But for rigidity of mind, there is no antidote. It carries the seeds of its own destruction.”
And I’ve certainly found the same is true in advertising. To rigidly stick to an idea isn’t a show of your confidence - it shows your fear of change, and your inability to adapt.
Louis Tristram, a brilliant film editor and best friend of mine, talks about Dougal Wilson, the legendary ad director, from his time working at Blink. And Louis always says what he admired most about Dougal was when they came to him with a client requirement or a problem, it was never a problem. It was a challenge to be beaten.
Dougal is an example to Adland, and to me. He didn’t promise 350 million completed briefs per week. He knew when to follow and when to lead, despite being one of the best. And, most importantly, he knew when he was wrong. And he worked to fix it. And by not overpromising, what he gave you at the end always knocked your socks off.
Adland could do well to take a leaf out of Dougal’s book.
It couldn’t hurt Westminster, either.