Keira Knightley Is Extremely Blunt in Urging Young Brits to Vote in Brexit Referendum

What's five seconds out of your life?

Keira Knightley might seem dainty, but she has no problem dropping an F-bomb when the occasion calls for it—like when chastising the young British citizens who plan to skip the country's upcoming referendum on European Union membership.

The A-list actress is just one celebrity to star in a new campaign, "Don't Fuck My Future," aimed at motivating British youth to step up and make their voices heard at the polls on June 23.

In her 30-second ad, she demonstrates how easy it is to practice the perfect award-show face—offering an impressive display of rapid-fire mood morphing—before pointing out that it also takes about five seconds to mark an "X" on whether the U.K. should stay in the E.U., emphasizing (in the campaign's trademark foul-mouthed verbiage) that anyone who fails to do so is a fool.

Actress and social entrepreneur Lily Cole makes a similar point in a second ad, as does rapper Big Narstie in a third. Agency adam&eveDDB created the campaign, citing a recent poll that showed only 50 percent of people under age 35 plan to vote in the referendum.

"I was concerned to see how low the voter turnout levels are anticipated to be among young people, who will arguably be most affected by this decision," Cole said in a statement. "I've also been frustrated by the divisive and negative nature of much of the campaigning. … So we wanted to do a neutral and positive campaign to encourage people to get involved, and make their opinions known."

Director Anton Corbijn shot Knightley and Cole, with other ads divided among other directors. Additional shorter spots launched today, with clips featuring fashion icon Vivienne Westwood, actress Annabelle Wallis and drummer Josh Devine. More videos will roll out over the coming weeks.

The provocative, overtly profane approach might seem melodramatic, bringing to mind P. Diddy's infamous "Vote or Die" campaign. But the stakes are legitimately high, and the message accurate. In this light, it reads as a simple directive—that voters should exercise their democratic rights.

And while the celebrities maintain a deliberately neutral tone about which way young people ought to vote, younger voter turnout statistically nets as support for remaining in the E.U.—56 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds favor staying, while 39 percent oppose it, numbers that flip for voters 65 and older, according to the most recent poll from the Guardian and research firm ICM.

But the race is close, with a growing edge for a so-called "Brexit," or British exit. Thus, individual participation really does matter. Which side of the argument is right is a much knottier issue—the referendum's policy implications are sweeping, impacting everything from consumer protections to national security, the economy and other myriad aspects of U.K. governance and life. 

The campaign's biggest flaw is that while it may only take five seconds to mark the ballot, it takes a lot longer to educate oneself on how to vote, and why.


Client/Agency: adam&eveDDB

Project name: Five Seconds

Chief Creative Officer: Ben Priest

Executive Creative Directors: Ben Tollett, Richard Brim

Creative Director/s: Tim Vance, Paul knott

Copywriter: Jo Cresswell

Art Director: Sian Coole

Agency Producer: Matt Craigie, Lucinda Kerr

Business Director: Charlotte Cook

Account Director: Caroline Grayson

—Keira Knighley/Lily Cole

Director: Anton Corbijn

Production company: Black Label

Executive Producer: Dom Freeman

Cinematographer + D.O.P: Martin Ruhe

Editing Company: Cut & Run

Editor: James Rose

Audio: Phil Bolland @Factory


Grading: Paul Harrison @ Finish

Online: James Ireland @ cain&abel

—Annabelle Wallis/Jessie Ware

Production company: RSA

Executive Producer: Damiano Vukotic

Director: Sophie Edelstein

Cinematographer: Katia Rio

Edit & Postproduction: James Ireland @ cain&abel

Audio: Phil Bolland @ Factory Studio

Telecine: Paul Harrison @ Finish

—Big Narstie

Production company: cain&abel

Cinematoographer: Daniel Morgan

Edi & postproduction: James Ireland @ cain&abel

Audio: Phil Bolland @ Factory Studio

Tele Cine: Paul Harrison @ Finish

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.