Four Video Ads that Define the Scottish Independence Referendum

Four Video Ads that Define the Scottish Independence Referendum

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Although I’m an American, let’s just say that I’m a wee bit interested in the outcome of the national referendum that is scheduled to be held in Scotland on Sept. 18, 2014. Voters will be asked to answer either Yes or No to the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” I’ve watched the video published by The Economist that explains not all Scots will have a say in the referendum:

And I’ve watched the video published by EuroNews, the Scottish independence vote is neck and neck in a new poll, so every vote matters, including 16- and 17-year-olds, who can now vote for the first time: 

But, as I was doing research for this column over the weekend, one of the most objective and insightful perspectives that I came across appeared in a CBC News story entitled, “Scotland independence: 4 video ads that framed the campaign.” CBC News explained:

With the Scotland independence vote just days away, both camps will be spending the remaining time ramping up their respective campaigns, trying to convince the undecided to vote on Sept. 18 either yes or no. And like any political battle, the vote on independence has given birth to a number of slick video advertisements.

Here are four ads that CBC News says frame the campaign for Scottish independence:

1. My Generation


At first glance, this ad from Scott Teechur may look like it’s firmly in the No camp. Using the backdrop of the Union Jack, the female narrator reads off reasons why Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom, which scrolls up the screen. But then, suddenly, the messaging changes course. She says, “It’s foolish to presume that we need change. Or is it?” From there, the scroll reverses and the narrator lays out the case for separation as the Union Jack morphs into the Scottish flag.

2. The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind

This popular anti-independence ad from the Better Together UK organization has so far generated over 433,000 views. It features a woman in her kitchen, sipping a coffee, talking about the upcoming vote. But it’s also sparked complaints about sexism, of being patronizing, and it has unleashed a slew of parody responses.

3. Our Choice Between Two Futures…

This ad by Yes Scotland opens with the ultrasound image of a fetus, its beating heart, all accompanied with the soft sounds of a violin. The narrator says, “Hi, my name is Kirsty. I’m going to be born on the very same day as the referendum on independence for Scotland.” The ad goes on to show Kirsty growing up, as the narrator wonders if she will live in what is portrayed as a bright colorful wonderful world of an independent Scotland or a bleak, music-less, black and white war-mongering society of continued union with the United Kingdom.

4. We Want the Best of Both Worlds

In what appears to be an appeal to younger voters, this ad from the Better Together UK campaign features several nicely dressed smiley young people laughing in dramatic slow motion as they explain the importance of staying united. This video, with more than 468,000 views, has also spawned parodies.

Oh, and Groundskeeper Willie also took time out of his schedule to join in the debate……

An American in Scotland

Now, no one on the other side of the pond wants to hear what a Yank has to say about the Scottish independence referendum – even one who transferred to the University of Edinburgh in 1969, but had to transfer back to the University of Michigan in 1970. (If you’re interested in the backstory, you can read my post, “Transferring Colleges Shouldn’t be Such an Epic Saga.”)

Referendum on Scottish independenceIn August 2011, I shared one of my stories from those days in “New Era Video Ads Succeed by Taking Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry Seriously.” I told the tale of when I took a train to Glasgow to stand in “the stands” at Hampden Park (because there were no seats in “the stands” back then) to watch the Scottish League Cup final between Celtic and Rangers.  I was wearing my Edinburgh scarf – which was blue with green and white stripes. Now, I didn’t know that the Celtic’s “colours” are green and white, while the Rangers’ “colours” are royal blue, white and red.  And I didn’t know that fans were kept apart at Hampden Park to prevent sectarian violence from breaking out during a match between the clubs.

Although I can’t remember whose side of the field I was on, I do recall that the ambiguous “colours” in my Edinburgh scarf almost triggered some trouble – until one of my university classmates came to my defense by telling the outrageous lie: “He’s Canadian.” I kept my mouth shut (so my American accent wouldn’t give me away) and watched a 16-year-old player named Derek Johnstone score the only goal in a tense affair that saw Rangers wrestle the cup from Celtic who had held it for five years in a row.

In August 2013, I shared another one of my stories from that period in “Are You Ready for Some Football (and/or Soccer) Videos?” When I was an American student at the University of Edinburgh, I asked a lovely Scottish lass for a date. And she asked, “Are you fond of dried figs?” I told her that I wanted to take her to the movies. And she said, “Oh, you mean the cinema.” I told her that I’d meet her on the sidewalk in front of her apartment at 7 p.m. And she said, “Oh, you mean the pavement in front of my flat at 19:00.” I told her that we’d see Z (which I pronounced Zee). And she said, “Oh, you mean Z (which she pronounced Zed).” Fortunately, the 1969 French language political thriller had English subtitles, because it is a satirical view of Greek politics.

What the Scottish Referendum Can Teach Video Marketers

But, even though I’ve eaten haggis at a Burns supper and washed it down with Scotch whisky, I wouldn’t presume to share my political opinion of Thursday’s Scottish independence referendum. However, since the campaign will teach some important lessons to online video marketers around the world, let me share this observation by Emma Hall, the London editor of Advertising Age.

In an article last week entitled, “Positive Message Helps ‘Yes’ Campaign in Battle for Scottish Independence,” Hall pointed out, “Neither side is allowed to spend more than $2.5 million on marketing during the official campaign period, which is limited to May 30 through Sept. 18, so social media has become the chief battleground in the fight to be heard on a budget.”

So, the outcome of this election may swing on which side uses YouTube, Facebook and Twitter more effectively. And that makes the results of the Scottish independence referendum very significant no matter where you’re from or where you live.


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