Facebook has been forced to disclose the raft of targeted ads created by pro-Brexit campaign groups as part of a parliamentary inquiry into fake news. The select committee evidence revealed campaigns that were creatively rudimentary, relying heavily on stock imagery and visual metaphor.
The IPA has responded to the publication of the ads, which were run by Aggregate IQ on behalf of the Vote Leave, BeLeave and DUP Vote to Leave campaigns ahead of the 2016 referendum.
Its president, Sarah Golding, said: "In the absence of self-regulation, it is clear that micro-targeted, political advertising online is an opaque form of political communication, vulnerable to abuse. And the fact that they are only coming to light now – and only because they have been requested as evidence within a parliamentary inquiry – is further cause for alarm."
The Drum asked three creatives to cast their critical eyes over the work.
Sue Higgs, group creative director, Grey London
Where to start
Where to stop.
I can’t unsee these ads
They are shocking. Misguided. Unintelligent.
Much like Brexit itself.
I’m reminded of the two-word review of Spinal Tap’s Shark Sandwich.
It’s what we’ve been handed here.
Writing a pun 20 years ago, the mantra was ‘RaPUNzel, RaPUNzel, let down your agency’.
Someone’s just let the whole country down with that wordplay wankery.
Anyway, my job is to pick the worst. It’s like picking the worst serial killer.
First up: ‘We have a bright future. We just need to get EU regulators out of the way'.
The man in the suit has turned to us though we don’t see his face. He has his index finger up. I'm not sure how that digit will get the EU out of the way, and in my mind it’s a visual typo and they mean the middle finger.
Next up: 'Outside the EU, we have a clear future'.
We see a pair of glasses with smoggy London in focus. I’m guessing it’s the man in the suit who, having finished retracting his finger, is looking for a new lens. Should have gone to Specasavers. Though I think even they may struggle getting this fella to see clearly.
Finally, I’m taken to ‘Outside of the EU we will have a brighter, global future’.
The visual shows the man with a grey suit, this time from behind, seemingly pissing on a smog-laden London. This is not telling me anything about my brighter future other than I will get pissed on, which I already know. (spoken like a true whingeing liberal snowflake elitist.)
And oh, the irony of the call to action in these. 'Learn more'. If only they had, before serving this unpalatable lot up.
Back to Spinal Tap.
Simon Lotze, creative director, Mcgarrybowen London
I also particularly liked 'Outside of the EU, we will have a brighter, global future'.
I feel that this ad really gets me, as a Londoner.
We see a man in a tailored suit looking out over a yellow-tinged, polluted London City, presumably from a multi-million-dollar penthouse.
This is something I personally aspire to.
I too, would like to live in a penthouse high above the smog and noise of the city and with London’s falling property prices since Brexit, voting Leave would definitely make a lifestyle like that a little more attainable.
Then there’s ‘We can’t let EU regulators keep us in the past’.
I like how the ad depicts a European bureaucrat frantically trying to stop the clock from hitting 5pm, which, I believe, is when potential Leavers like to have their traditional gin and tonic.
I can really see how this would provoke outrage in a Leaver’s mind; callous Europeans interfering with a time-honoured British tradition. I’m not British, but as I also enjoy gin and tonics, I can imagine this would be incredibly effective messaging.
I think these ads are brilliant. Much more effective than the Remain work.
Instead of preaching to the converted, they really make a strong case to voters who are sitting on the fence with simple, emotive and powerful messages.
But full disclosure: I’m a migrant and have probably stolen some poor British creative director’s job.
Dan Shute, co-founder, Creature
Well, we’re all fucked, aren’t we? Gloriously, proudly, independently, and patriotically hoist by our own sovereign petard. Well played, us. As Kevin’s Uncle Frank so memorably says in Home Alone, "look whatcha did, you little twerp!" Only we’re the twerp, AND we’re The Wet Bandits, and we’re going to spend the next fifty years hitting ourselves in the face with paint cans while giggling nervously about how much quicker the world burns when there are no unelected bureaucrats to stop us pouring petrol on it.
On the flip side, though, we do at least get to look at some of the breathtaking pieces of creative that Vote Leave (or BeLeave, or Arron Banks’ mum) used (or didn’t use) to persuade us all to jump, lemming-like, off the cliffs of free movement, rosé and balmy evenings into the torrid hellhole of insulin-wars, warm bitter, and angry ham-headed men called John.
Oh wait. Hang on. No, those are shit, too.
Look at this one, for example. The EU should not be regulating your ride home. Hell no. I don’t want anybody regulating my ride home, least of all those horrid dirty bureaubastards of Brussels. Unregulated blurry BMWs for all, please, because, ultimately, all I’m really angry about is regulation, or something, so it doesn’t really matter that I can’t for the life of me work out what this ad means, other than SHUT UP, EU, YOU’RE NOT EVEN MY REAL MUM.
I also had to mention 'Outside of the EU, we will have a brighter, global future'. Generic, unsubstantiated vagaries about the future, with a shit Instagram filter. Not sure the whole global bit is going to land that well with the target, and, now I look a bit closer, the future they’re depicting does look weirdly burnt-out and apocalyptic. And, come to think of it, Darren on the right, wearing his ‘I’ve never spent a day in an office in my life, but I picked this up down the market for my cousin Nigel’s wedding a couple of years ago’ suit is a bit, you know, see through, as if he’s caught the impending nuclear winter full on in the face.
But hey, at least the newly reinvigorated NHS will be able to scoop up the little pile of Darren-sand and put it back together with some proper British medicine that they managed to hide behind the corpse- barricade when the raging mob came looking for bread.
Hang on a minute, though. Finally, a spot of creativity. Now, we’ve written a few political ads in our time at Creature, but the one MASSIVE loophole we’ve always neglected to exploit was the one that says political ads are unregulated so you don’t have to worry about telling the truth, not even a little bit.
And, actually, now I think about it, it doesn’t even really matter if Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey ARE joining the EU, because it’s just the sort of thing those absolute cheddar-hating, ale-despising, runny-cheese-muching Belgo-bastards WOULD do, and, ultimately, knowing what they WOULD do is probably more important than knowing what they ARE doing, because how else are we supposed to be prepared.
This is advertising providing a vital moral service, and it’s no wonder that poor lady’s exhausted, because once you start to think about all of the awful things that COULD happen, well, the world gets pretty tiring, and before you know it, you’re hoarding antibiotics in your cellar, dry bread in your pants, and simple moral decency deep, deep down in your blackened soul, where you used to keep the bile.
View all the ads submitted by Facebook here.