The Advertising Standards Authority has said it will not investigate the government’s £100m “Get ready for Brexit” campaign, despite receiving nearly 100 complaints that it is misleading.
The ad watchdog has to date received 94 complaints from members of the public, many of whom have argued that the ads, created by Engine, are inaccurate in that they imply the UK will definitely leave the European Union on 31 October when political tumult suggests otherwise.
But the ASA has said that, however divisive the campaign might be, it “will not be launching an investigation”, arguing that the 31 October departure date in the ads is the “date that has been declared by the government”.
It continued: “This therefore currently remains the default date that the public will consider as the official ‘leave’ date for the UK, as agreed with the EU, last autumn.”
As well as the 31 October date, the campaign presents consumers with other nuggets of information. One video gives advice on travelling to Europe post-Brexit, suggesting that people take a passport, travel insurance and a driving licence. The information is entirely accurate, if not revelatory.
The ASA acknowledged that “due to recent events”, the 31 October date “might be subject to change if the UK government cannot secure a withdrawal agreement”, “but at this stage it remains the default position” of both the government and the EU.
It added: “The ads’ messages are intended to encourage people to be prepared for Brexit, in terms of travel and business, and the actual date is not, at this time, likely to mislead the general public about the plans the ads encourage them to make in order to prepare for Brexit.”
The campaign has been criticised widely for its profligacy (estimates of its cost have come in at tens of millions over the oft-cited £100m), its delivery and its lack of substantive information or advice. Campaign recently named it Turkey of the Week, describing it as an “ad both Remainers and Brexiters can hate”.