04/09/2014 12:31 BST | Updated 04/09/2014 13:59 BST

Scottish Referendum 'Yes' And 'No' Adverts Are Basically The Same With Different Logos, Claims Advertising Exec

The advertising campaigns for and against Scottish independence are so similar that if you swapped the logos around you would barely be able to spot the difference between them, a top London advertising chief has said.

Chris Hirst, the chief executive of advertising agency Grey London, which makes ads for McVities, Vodafone and Lucozade, said that both the "Better Together" and "Yes Scotland" campaign adverts have "absolutely no impact" and are using the same bland approach with "no vision".

He said that advertising from both the pro and anti-independence camps needed to be more provocative: "Neither side seems to have done anything that’s particularly memorable, nor is it easy to find anything from either side that is really very message-based."

yes scotland

'Yes' campaign: children will be better off in an independent Scotland

no thanks

'No' campaign: children will be better off if Scotland stays in the UK

“From what I have seen," Hirst said, "both camps appear to have decided that women particularly are a key battleground, as they predominantly have women in the advertising, therefore they are presumably talking to women.

"Most of the adverts on both sides seem to be pictures of women and children saying either 'I love my family so I’m voting no' or 'I love my family so I’m voting yes'."

"The Scottish referendum is a result that’s so important, so dangerous and so unprecedented, and yet the communications are so weak. You could swap the logos on the ad campaigns and it would make little difference: they all play on emotional response rather than rational one."

bt lady

The actress nicknamed "patronising BT lady" in a Better Together advert

dressing gown shot

Cups of tea in the kitchen also feature in a Yes Scotland ad

His comments follow two anti-independence campaigns from the "Better Together" movement that were widely ridiculed online.

A film called "The woman who made up her mind", featuring a housewife in the kitchen was accused of being patronising and sexist, even spawning its own hashtag, #patronisingbtlady.

The 'no' campaign's next effort fared no better. It was attacked for arguing that people should vote no if they love their families, which some commentators read as an implication that 'yes' voters did not love their kids.


Lots of celebrities with placards support the 'yes' campaign...


... but other celebrities with other placards support a 'no' campaign

But Hirst said that adverts that attract criticism are not necessarily damaging to a political cause, as making an impact is better than making none at all. "Someone could have done something that was far more provocative, but decided it was obviously too ‘risky’. But what ‘risk’?

"Classic political advertising is stuff we remember. There is strong evidence that even the most famous political campaigns - such as the 'New Labour, new danger' campaign for the Conservative party in 1997 - don’t actually have a significant impact on voting intention. The Tories lost that 1997 election, but we remember that message."


The Conservative party advert suggesting Blair was "dangerous" in 1997

"But highly visible advertising does have the ability to set the news agenda. So is bland advertising, with absolutely no impact, better than risking some impact?"

"In terms of impact, there’s been nothing in the Scottish referendum campaign that has even come close to that anti-Blair ad."

Both sides could also be focusing on "safe" emotional messages because of the unprecedented nature of the vote, Hirst added.


'No' vote supporters jumping for joy


'Yes' vote supporters jumping for joy

“In a normal political advertising campaign, all you want to do is get the swing voters and then it’s on to next time. But with this, there is no next time.”

"You’re not choosing a political party, you’re making a choice based on some conception of nationhood. That’s unusual and difficult. I think that’s why the advertising for both camps have stayed suspended in this emotional debate."

yes campaign

Man on the left, woman on the right in this 'Yes' campaign image

better together

Suspiciously similar positioning in this Better Together advert