In My Opinion: Mark Gorman: An intriguing communications battleground awaits over the independence referendum

WAS it just me or was the media at the end of 2012 just a little too partisan for comfort? For many, it was the year that put the ‘Great’ back into Great Britain, and that’s fine. But If I hear, or see, another foaming-at-the-mouth Olympic or Paralympics Games segue I think I’ll scream. By contrast. in the much quieter waters of 2013 (bar a Royal baby arriving) things should be a lot quieter on the “it’s great to be British, isn’t it?” front.

A good time, then, for a new and hopefully intriguing communications battlefield to emerge as the arguments begin to take shape for and against an independent Scotland from 2014. And it will be one of the biggest new advertising campaigns for years in Scotland as two new brands try to establish their credentials and secure ‘your vital cross in the box’ come late 2014.

In the one corner, Yes Scotland, the campaign for an independent Scotland, led by Blair Jenkins – a weel-kent Scottish media and political figure. It’s already well-established and has a respected team of advertising and marketing people primed, well-funded and raring to go.

In the other corner is Better Together, the all-party and non-party campaign for Scotland in the UK, led by former Chancellor, Alistair Darling. Better Together has also rounded up a diverse collection of marketers, including Blue State Digital, which worked on the successful election campaign for US President, Barack Obama.

This could be a clever decision because many believe the online battle was a vital element of Obama’s success in November.

And industry insiders are tipping Better Together will be soon appointing, as its advertising and strategic marketing partner, a new agency, Zeitgeist, created by former stalwarts of The Union, Simon Scott and Giles Moffatt.

Yes Scotland argues that independence will create a fairer and more prosperous country on the basis of our boundless resources – both natural and intellectual. Better Together, as you’d expect, claim precisely the opposite and that we currently get the ‘best of both worlds’ in the way that a devolved Scotland has emerged.

The campaign has begun, but not yet in earnest. And on the Facebook front it’s Yes Scotland that has taken an early lead with 12,716 people ‘liking’ Yes Scotland compared to 9,191 for Better Together (as at January 4 2013).

On YouTube, Better Together’s campaign video (one of 53) captures a broad church of opinion, the length and breadth of Scotland, and argues its case whilst carefully avoiding the obvious risk of dissing the independence camp. It’s just a starter, a no-mistakes tiptoe through the pro-Union argument.

Yes Scotland has built up an archive of 64 videos featuring a ‘Who’s Who’ of Scottish personalities and political leaders; among them Brian Cox, Martin Compston, Liz Lochhead, The Proclaimers and Elaine C Smith.

Once again, it’s Yes Scotland that’s taken an early lead on YouTube with almost 55,000 views and over 400 subscribers compared to Better Together’s 28,000-plus views and 80-plus subscribers.

Maybe the fact that searching ‘Better Together’ online brings up dozens of campaigns across the world that operate under that banner is hindering the campaign’s early efficacy. But it is still early days; the marketing is merely lining up its collateral. No one’s yet drawn blood.

We’ll see who’s got the stomach for it in the early part of 2013. I, for one, am looking forward to the banter.

Mark Gorman is an independent marketing consultant operating under the banner, ‘Think Hard’. He has over 25 years of experience in advertising, design, direct marketing, PR, professional writing (especially blogging), business mentoring, digital marketing and research. He was co-founder of the former advertising agency, 1576.