Nigel Farage: Ad industry has 'no idea what's going on in people's lives'

Brexit Party leader has given exclusive interview to Campaign.

Farage: on the cover of Campaign's July issue
Farage: on the cover of Campaign's July issue

Nigel Farage has claimed that most of the UK ad industry has "no idea about what’s really going on in people’s lives" because it is "so Londonised", but he still rates advertising as "a great industry", saying: "I might fancy it myself one day."

Farage, leader of the Brexit Party, made the comments in an interview to Campaign in which he discussed his use of communications and social media, how his new party has "learned to keep the message consistent" on different media channels and how he was inspired by Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy.

He also revealed for the first time that he owns 60% of the Brexit Party, which he founded in January and turned into a major political force, topping the UK’s European elections in May with almost a third of the vote.

While Farage’s criticism of the ad industry is to be expected, his support for it may come as a surprise.

"The advertising industry is a great industry," he said. "They still go to lunch. They like a drink. There are some very clever people in it. It’s not heavily regulated, which means you can make money. I might fancy it myself one day."

However, he was scathing about how most people in advertising work in Soho and Shoreditch in London, plus some in Manchester who "wouldn’t be there if they weren’t supported by taxpayers’ money".

They are "so establishment, metropolitan and Londonised", according to Farage.

"They can’t see beyond London, which is why they missed a massive market opportunity," he said. "To be fair, they weren’t the only ones – the polling industry was slow to grasp this too – but, although some of my friends in the industry told me privately they favoured Brexit, every agency that commented publicly was pro-Remain."

Farage is widely regarded as the most disruptive British politician of his generation after leading UKIP for a decade and helping to force the 2016 referendum.

He is also an LBC broadcaster and gave the interview at parent company Global's radio studios in central London.

Mixed reaction

Mark Borkowski, founder and head of PR agency Borkowski, is not a fan of Farage but thinks Brexit is a salutary reminder of how inward-looking advertising and marketing have become.

"All those people who were running around at Cannes recently, slapping themselves on the back and giving awards to campaigns that, as good as many of them are, play to hipsters in Shoreditch, Glasgow and Manchester, should give Farage a communications award," he said.

James Murphy, co-founder of Adam & Eve/DBB and the Advertising Association’s exports champion, believes Farage is a highly effective communicator because he relies on "emotion" rather than "facts".

Murphy said: "The emotional core of Farage’s appeal is unfairness. In 2016, the message was that you are being cheated by the EU. In 2019, the message was that the political elite is cheating you out of your referendum. 

"It’s a very simple, emotive idea. They learned from the £350m-a-week-on-the-bus controversy not to bother too much with facts and to stick to emotions."

Benedict Pringle, founder of Political Advertising UK, said brands can learn from Farage’s single-minded focus: "He has always had a simple yet unreasonably ambitious objective. The idea that the UK might leave the EU was almost unimaginable at the turn of the century but through relentless focus, personal charisma and a dollop of luck, he has almost achieved it." 

Read the full interview here and in the July print issue of Campaign 

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