Fear

Forget Brexit, China and Oil. Fear’s the biggest barrier to your success.

The Blogfather goes against the grain and after the economists this week, encouraging you to stop listening to the doomsayers and put yourself about a bit. Marketing-wise, at least.

The economy. What is it? Well, it’s like money and shit

The economy. What is it? Well, it’s like money and shit, to paraphrase Armstrong and Miller’s WWII pilots. But to be half serious a moment; what actually is it? Sir Martin Sorrell famously called it “bath shaped”. But then he also said, back in 2008, that he was quite certain there would not be a global recession. He’s currently being overly negative in his predictions (once bitten, twice shy), so expect us to promptly enter a Golden Age.

One can’t help but feel that a recession happens, in part, because people fear what is projected to happen, and so shut up shop.

The economy is portrayed as some kind of mythical sea beast, like Moby Dick or the Loch Ness Monster. It can double dip. It can suddenly appear, grown in size, to the surprise of all. There are differing accounts from observers around the globe as to what it looks like and how it may behave. It’s ambiguous yet ubiquitous, and out of our control. You could argue it’s one of the most effective pieces of tone of voice work ever produced, allowing governments and banks to talk about this enigma and apportion blame to it, rather than take responsibility for their actions/rapacity. It’s instilled in the nation’s psyche as something we don’t fully understand and can bite us at any moment.

We all do it; ‘ah, well it’s because the economy’s bad at the moment, isn’t it?’ I find myself in idle conversations, when I’m waiting for my life to get a bit more exciting, talking about China slowing down, with a lamenting tut and raise of the eyebrows, but I don’t actually know anything about it, I’m just repeating what I’ve heard.

That once iconic brand of the British high street, BHS, is about to sink to the murky depths of Davy Jones’ locker having been destroyed by ‘The Economy’, threatening 11,000 jobs as it does so. But this happened not because the economy is bad, but because a greedy few milked it dry and put no investment into it where it was needed, primarily marketing. It just looked so tired and dated. It will be interesting to see if Sir Philip has the guts to turn up and chat to the parliamentary select committee this week.

One can’t help but feel that a recession happens, in part, because people fear what is projected to happen, and so shut up shop. Yet in addition to the fear of what the economy has in store, there is also the fear of causing offence, which just seems to be gathering more and more pace. This week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced that adverts promoting “unhealthy or unrealistic” body images will be banned across the Transport for London (TfL) network from next month. The Protein World, ‘Beach Body Ready’ ad is being held up as the example to accompany this news item (primarily as there are not really any other examples to use).

Gasp blog beach body
This week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced that adverts promoting “unhealthy or unrealistic” body images will be banned across the Transport for London (TfL) network

We’ve blogged on this ad before, but suffice to say, this is a worrying turn of events. How can you enforce a ‘total ban’ on something that is so subjective and so hard to define? You can’t, is the short answer. A lot of people would say the girl in the Protein World ad looks healthy. Ok, the pursuit of looking like that can be unhealthy…and thus we immediately have a complex debate that blanket bans cannot deal with effectively. TFL will liaise with ad agencies, and in turn brands, to ensure everything is adhered to. It’s all a little 1984. If we’re not careful we could end up with a universal, sanitised form of advertising that lacks any impact or creativity.

Having visual pieces in public places that divide opinion and encourage debate is a healthy thing. Granted, public transport is a little different, as the full social demographic use it, so discretion and common sense is needed. I thought the defacing that accompanied the Beach Body Ready ads was a good thing, certainly something not to be punished or even discouraged. It gave the debate a voracity that brought it to a wider audience. And as we know in this industry, as wide an audience as possible is often vital.

Hopefully this dictatorial, shackled TFL climate will encourage more anarchic, guerrilla advertising, we’d be up for some of that at Gasp, as we genuinely see ourselves as fearless and inventive. So we are at odds with the current atmosphere, it can all be a bit ruddy bloody soul-sapping, if you allow it to. It’s at times like these you need to be bold and confident, and ally yourself with those of a like mind. If your competitors are currently cutting budgets and doing nothing interesting, then the stage is yours, no?

So, ignore all the negativity, all the fear-mongering and Carry On Marketing (no bikini scenes, mind). Go tell the FD you want a few quid for a tissue session and a few sherbets with an agency that has good ideas coming out of their ears and can regale you with anecdotes and a running commentary of the characters of Wokingham’s market place (we’re referring to us, just in case it was not obvious).*

*Other talented marketing agencies are available. We’re just not sure where.

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