Why putting campaign impact last costs us all £46 million

By Dave Reed, Co-founder and director

Giants & Titans


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Find out more

February 20, 2020 | 5 min read

It was revealed at the end of last month that the Government’s £46m ‘Get ready for Brexit’ campaign had little to no impact on public preparedness for Brexit. The planned £100m campaign, which was cut short on 28 October when the UK was granted an extension to membership of the EU, was estimated to have been seen five times by 98% of the population. Despite this, the percentage of UK citizens who had looked or started to look for information remained stubbornly at 34% having ranged between 32% and 37% prior to the campaign starting. This speaks to a wider issue - too much advertising is still not focused enough on ultimate impacts and is relying instead on simply delivering reach.

Border Brexit sign

Giants & Titans on what we can learn from the lack of impact or preparation gained from the UK's Brexit campaign trail.

There are any number of reasons why ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ didn’t have the desired effect. From the indifference of a nation that by that point was awash with Brexit news and messaging to the shifting sands of the negotiations themselves. However, chief amongst these were a lack of emotional sway with the public through the creative and no clear route to a solution.

An effective campaign needs to excite an emotional or psychological response: ie it should leave people feeling shocked, educated, happy or motivated to change behaviour. To do this however advertisers often need to tap into a fundamental truth. One of the tests that we apply to any content we develop is ‘if you said this aloud in a social situation would it be a conversation starter or a conversation killer’. In the case of ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ you have a conversation killer, an order without a solution.

For any campaign it’s essential that impacts are front and centre from the start. Agreed between client and agency, any desired effects need to be clearly defined and easily verifiable. This could be an increase in purchases, reaching new demographics, making content work harder, or raising brand awareness. In the case of ‘Get Ready for Brexit’, as with a major brand like Coca-Cola, there was already mass awareness. Unlike Coca-Cola there was little that the population as whole could do with that awareness. The vast majority of information provided by the promoted website and leaflets focused on operational changes businesses importing and exporting within the EU needed to make. Begging the question as to why the Government spent tens of millions on a mass awareness campaign? From a commercial perspective this is the equivalent of Stannah Stairlifts launching a multi-million-pound ‘Get Ready for Old Age’ campaign.

This is perhaps the point - what seems to have been permitted in a public information campaign, namely the misguided spending of advertising and creative budget without aim or purpose, is now much less tolerated in the commercial sector. Marketing managers are heavily measured, more so than ever before, so each campaign needs a clear and verifiable objective and the creative needs to demonstrate how it can deliver against that. There also needs to be some agility built in so that you can test, learn and adapt as the campaign develops rather than waiting until the end or midway through. In the case of ‘Get Ready for Brexit’, the likelihood is that without an EU extension the campaign would have kept trundling along without making any real difference until the full £100m budget was spent.

For us at Giants & Titans putting the impacts first is essential for any campaign. While bras, cars and internet security may be less controversial than Brexit the results all speak to our creative approach of ensuring that each campaign excites an emotional or psychological response. In the case of Bravissimo we generated more than £100,000 of revenue within just three months, helping them significantly increase the number of 18-35-year-olds making a purchase. For MG we oversaw the brand’s most successful launch ever, helping to generate a 104% year on year sales uplift. For internet security giant Kaspersky, we’ve helped to shift their audience demographic with 13.2 million video plays in just three months, 9.2 million of which have been watched to completion. While their audience has been predominantly men, we’re seeing up to a 70:30 split in favour of women for their new, more celebratory Defenders of Digital campaign.

What this shows is that impact can and should be put first and that the best route to deliver this is to generate an emotional or psychological response. While it’s good to see bodies like the National Audit Office providing accountability, creative needs to be assessed and optimised in real time not just reviewed after the event. In the commercial environment this is becoming the norm rather than the exception, with impressive results. The public sector now needs to follow suit because if it doesn’t, we all lose out, whether that’s by £46m or £100m.

Dave Reed, co-founder and director at Giants & Titans.


Content by The Drum Network member:

Giants & Titans

A creative agency of thinkers & makers

Find out more

More from Advertising

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +