The rejected Stronger In posters were dreadful - but honesty is the best policy in EU vote post-mortem

Were you pro-'remain'? I was. Now, we've all got to be straight with ourselves: we failed massively. Monumentally.

The rejected Stronger In posters were dreadful - but honesty is the best policy in EU vote post-mortem

Respect, then, to the trio of creative agencies that were part of the utterly abysmal campaign to keep us in the EU, and yesterday released a selection of ad and creative concepts produced for Stronger In.

The images, revealed to PRWeek sister title Campaign, included appeals to think of the unborn children (a pregnant tummy declaring 'I'm in' - geddit?), attacks on the characters of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, the suggestion that leaving the EU would make the UK shrink (I get it, it's a metaphor, but still), and that the UK should stay in the EU to ride the European hippopotamus (again; metaphor, again; hmmm...).

"We never normally release work that we produced on behalf of a client that hasn’t run," one of the firm's bosses told Campaign. "But this time is different. We are still emotionally engaged, the issue is – and will remain – of vital importance and it might help to air some of these ideas."

Emotionally engaged could well be a euphemism for 'angry'. There has been a lot of anger in pro-EU circles since last Thursday's vote. Anger towards old people, the working classes, politicians, Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit-supporting friends on social media, towards anyone who can feasibly be targeted.

What that anger of course actually stems from is the realisation that the broad 'remain' campaign, in the guise of Stronger In, in the efforts of individual politicians and parties, in the action or inaction of individuals (myself included), seems to have taken for granted that we were in the right, and that everyone else in the country would sooner or later realise that.

Yes, the Brexiteers ran a strong campaign in many respects, and yes they deserve credit, but it was really complacency that won the day. I've lost track of how many times I've mournfully used the phrase "London bubble" in the past few days.

"Airing ideas", like these ad firms have done, can help us move beyond complacency and start a conversation about the lessons we need to learn.

Those lessons will be manifold, and vary between the broad lessons for society as a whole, and the individual lessons for us all as individuals, professionally and personally. Those lessons can only be learned when people, like the creative agencies mentioned, 'fess up to how ineffectual or lazy they were during the campaign.

PR, marketing and ad people should already be used to talking to different audiences, of course – but let this referendum be a lesson that we make assumptions about 'the general public' at our peril.

And, like a lot of 'remainers', I've learned that I can't simply secure the political outcomes I want by posting a couple of tweets, writing some things on Facebook, and ordering a T-shirt.

Sometimes, the easiest lessons are the hardest.

Sam Burne James is UK news editor of PRWeek, and sadly (ominously) mislaid his Stronger In T-shirt just days after buying it

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