Lessons from Farage

It’s hard to ignore the fuss over ‘Campaign’s’ decision to feature Nigel Farage on the front cover and inside their latest edition. That’s the problem with monthlies – they hang around.

Let’s get the political disclosure bit out of the way first. I don’t like Nigel Farage or his policies. But that’s irrelevant to what follows.

Like him or not, Farage is a charismatic communicator. He cuts through where others can’t; he is all over the media (he gives good copy); he has an ability to shape the agenda.

There must be lessons we can learn.

To be frank I’m not so sure that there are. Certainly, he applies certain well-established principles well, but he operates in a field where the disciplines that define what the rest of us do don’t apply.

What he’s done well is identify a simple message that appeals to a large constituency (that he understands very well) and keep to it consistently.

He appreciates that frequency (of appearance) works in building his brand and keeping it front-of-mind; and he has created impact and excitement (positive and negative) by acting the rebel, going against what he sees as ‘convention’.

He’s realised that it’s the long-term that counts, that the news cycle moves on and will soon wash away any short-term indiscretions or missteps. Keep going, stay focussed, be consistent.

Did we really not know any of that?

One area where Farage has excelled and from which brands could learn is in the importance of tailoring messages to both the medium and the audience.

For example, he realised early on the benefit of making speeches in the European Parliament. This had nothing to do with taking part in any debate, and thus standing up for issues that may be of concern to his constituents, but was all to do with building his brand on YouTube.

Criticising him for walking out as soon as he had made his remarks, for not listening to others, for not debating the issues under discussion misses the point entirely.

He’s understood very well that he needs to tailor his message to his supporters, and their like. This audience is best reached online, with short pithy extracts. So strip out the boring stuff, talk in soundbites, make it seem as if you’re standing up for the common man in front of the elite, and off you go.

In other words, he always has his brand and its appeal to his desired audience front and centre.

Can advertising learn from him? Not really – what he does is execute well-known principles extremely well, but don’t forget he’s operating in a world where the ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’ framework doesn’t apply.

And life is simpler when you’re owner, CEO, brand manager, head of marketing and copywriter all rolled into one.

Should ‘Campaign’ have featured Farage? Why not, as one example in an issue dedicated to Love and Hate.

But as the cover star?

I think it’s insulting to a serious profession to have a gurning Farage, chomping on a cigar and gracing us all with the thought that ‘I might fancy advertising myself one day’. As if he could just drop in and show us all how it’s done.

It’s degrading to read his stereotyping of the ad business: ‘The advertising industry is a great industry. They still go to lunch. They like a drink…It’s not heavily regulated which means you can make money’. Transparency enquiries anyone?

And we’re all in Soho. Or Manchester where we are only because we’re ‘supported by tax-payers’ money’. Maybe he’s confusing us with the BBC.

Farage aside, there is one lesson we can all learn from current political marketing (advertising included). And that is that it needs regulating.

Politicians (on all sides) are quick to dissemble, to spread information that is at best misleading and at worst downright lies. As James Murphy put it: ‘They learned not to bother too much with facts and to stick to emotions’.

They have a willing accomplice in this in the social media platforms (and in Facebook in particular), which of course aren’t regulated in the same way as other media outlets.

Maybe ‘Campaign’ should focus their planned ‘public forum where we can come together to address your responses (to the Farage piece)..’ on starting that debate.


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