The “chillin, meetin, tourin, votin” poster proves that politicians can’t speak to young people

It’s like a The Thick of It sketch

We are told ours is an apathetic generation.

And some of us counter this criticism, indignantly. We invoke junior doctors strikes and tuition fees protests; we point to petitions we have shared. Regardless, it remains true that 18 – 24 year olds are less likely to vote than those in other demographics. Political parties, candidates and referendum camps struggle to engage the youth vote.

Why? Partly, probably, because as a generation we are scathing, cynical and suspicious of the Westminster echo chamber and other things that angry person on your Facebook said. We take (overly) seriously the easy, lazy allegations that politics is all about white, middle class Bullingdon bores. Why vote, when retweeting pithy, snarky commentators is easier?

It’s a contemptible attitude – and it by no means applies to the whole demographic. But it’s also rather understandable when you look at how they speak to us. I give you Britain Stronger in Europe’s new poster campaign.

This afternoon, this poster started circulating on social media. While it does not explicitly clarify the age group at which it is pitched, it is clear that it is directed at us. Why? Firstly, the girl looks like she is somewhere between the ages of 18 and 25. Secondly, she is on holiday, unlike an ‘adult’, who would be in an office, possibly standing near a photocopier or another obvious prop from office life. And thirdly and crucially: which other demographic has interests as disparate as chillin, meetin, tourin and #votin?

It’s like they distilled my life into a poster. Perhaps I will make this poster my profile picture on Facebook or Twitter.

Creating Thick of It comparisons is easier and easier in our modern day politics – but I would really like to watch the creation of this campaign imagined by Armando Iannucci. Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way: “votin”. Which person decided that the way to communicate with young people is to signpost the prejudice that we dumb down our own speech?

Now I know – I know – that the wordplay puns on “Vote In”. I know that the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign wants me to be both voting and voting in. But it remains true that when I read “votin” all I hear is a simpering careers advisor trying to play it cool. See other clumsy puns on the website.

Turning to the visuals, the composite parts are baffling. The model is surfing on a lilo in high seas; she is risking (riskin?) drowning and I don’t think the EU needs blood on its hands on top of everything else. Furthermore, although I concede it’s hard to conjure an image that screams ‘EU’ (a flag?), or more crucially what we’d lose from leaving it (that flag?), I’d suggest that ‘access to the seas’ is not that image. We are an island. We are surrounded by sea on all sides. We are not lacking in sea. We will lose no sea.

Does it really matter? We’ve all seen the poster by now, and so as an advertising campaign it has done its job. It will probably remind some people to register to vote, and then turn out and vote, and likely vote in. And Britain Stronger In needs those votes because if it wins them, it will win the referendum: people our age are far more likely to be pro-EU.

But yes, it does matter. It’s condescending, it’s cringe. It illustrates – yet again – how little politicians understand how to engage young people. Even if their blunt instruments get the point across, it is precision we want. Precision and clarity suggests that people are actually thinking about our interests and considering how to reflect them in policy. This poster does not.