The No campaign has a classic advertising problem: they need to turn a negative into a positive

So far their message has been weak and lacking in ambition


In less than three weeks Scotland votes on whether to become a separate nation, breaking its ties with a 300 year old union. In order to win, the No camp must confront a classic advertising problem: how do you counter the powerful challenger overturning the traditional brand leader?  It’s Apple vs Microsoft, Pepsi vs Coke, Audi vs BMW.

As the ‘challenger’, Alex Salmond offers freedom, independence and prosperity, all wrapped up in a saltire and declarations of destiny.  It’s pretty heady stuff. The ‘brand leader’ unionists counter this defensively, implying that Scotland needs the rest of the UK. The message is to keep to the status quo. But this is weak, and lacks ambition.

On top of that the unionists underline their argument with constant negativity.  How much oil is there? What will happen to our currency? Will the EU readily accept a new nation? In any campaign it’s perfectly acceptable to point out the negatives in someone’s case. But not if negativity is the only message you transmit. This is another classic advertising dilemma: how do you counter a seductive, powerful, emotional call to ‘buy’ when your proposition on the ballot paper is framed in the negative?

Advertising teaches you that people buy the future; you have to offer them a vision that is modern and forward-looking. Whatever one thinks of the SNP case, they are doing exactly that. The challenge for the unionists is to take a negative and turn it into a positive. 

There is an answer to this dilemma that turns the tables on the Yes camp and offers the No voter a positive feeling. And that is a ‘Vote No Borders’ strategy. A campaign that turns the No vote into a vote for the future. A vote that understands where the world is going.

We can readily argue that the history of the world is one where as we broke borders between nations, we also broke borders of class, race and creed. The world has not only become a safer place, it’s also become a more prosperous one. When Europe was riddled with borders it was constantly at war. Fragmentation increases conflict. A Vote No Borders campaign would remind us that we don’t progress by going backwards. The union between our four countries has spread wealth, opportunity and influence.

A final point. Europe is in a precarious place. Dissatisfaction with the EU is growing throughout the continent. From the Catalans to the Belgians to the Corsicans, across Europe there is a clamour for independence. If Scotland votes Yes, the others will surely be emboldened to pursue their own narrow agenda, taking Europe back to a fragmented past. Will that be Scotland’s legacy? It’s not one I would wish for. 

Vote No Borders is the way out of this debate, reminding people of the value and opportunity of togetherness.

Read more: Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?

John Hegarty has been at the forefront of the creative advertising industry from the early days of Saatchi and Saatchi to Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the global company he runs today.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas