Today (Thursday) is a hugely important day. After months of infighting, egos, letters to newspapers, poster campaigns and films starring celebrities, we get to decide whether the UK stays in the European Union. Hopefully, those of you quaffing rosé in Cannes have already voted or have made the requisite arrangements for someone to take your place.
The advertising industry has been encouraged to get involved in the debate throughout the campaign. Prime minister David Cameron even took time out of canvassing and running the country to write for Campaign to urge UK advertisers to make their voices heard. But bar a few notable exceptions – including M&C Saatchi and Adam & Eve/DDB – most agencies and advertisers have not really got involved in the debate in any material way.
When Ukip unveiled its referendum ad "Breaking point" last Thursday, commentators were quick to point out its similarity to 1930s Nazi propaganda.
If only the use of refugees in a poster about the EU – or even the terrible behaviour of England football fans – had been the lowest point of that day. Instead, we had the horrific murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.
I hardly need to remind you that the aftermath was fraught. The dignity of the people closest to her should have been an inspiration. But Remainers felt they needed to highlight her alleged murderer’sfar-right leanings. Those on the "leave" side then criticised the Remainers for politicising the death of a politician. The truth of the murderer’s motives will take some time to be established, but it can’t be denied that the level of anger in politics has been toxic in recent months.
The advertising industry is devoted to finding creative ways to communicate messages to the public. Whatever your view on Europe – or, indeed, politics more broadly – your side could benefit from your professional skills. Surveys carried out by the IPA, The Marketing Society and Campaign at Media360 found the industry to be overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU, but I know there are a few Brexiteers out there too.
The result of the referendum will have a huge impact on all of your lives – both personally and professionally. As Cameron wrote earlier this month, 35% of the revenues of the top 20 advertising agencies are generated from overseas, most of which is from the EU.
Maybe you don’t care that much. In which case, fair enough. But if you do, have you done anything to help your side communicate their argument in a better way?
Political discourse has been ugly. As professional communicators, there’s probably something you can do to help. Next time there is a question of this magnitude, maybe you should try to improve things so that different arguments can be heard beyond the anger of the extremes on each side.
More immediately, make sure you vote today. Whatever your allegiance, use your vote – not everyone is in a position to do so.