Was calling my agency Mr President a mistake? What five years in business have taught me

Mr President co-founder Nick Emmel

Cast your mind back to September 2012, a lingering summer glowing with a real sense of optimism. The London Olympics and Paralympics had just drawn to a close amidst a flurry of patriotism and inclusivity. The nation was smiling as one. It felt like we were going somewhere, we had momentum.

The economic woes of 2012 were behind us, Obama was being lined up for his second term in office, and Curiosity Rover had found water on Mars. The Universe was full of promise.

Even my perennially underachieving team, Crystal Palace, had just embarked on a 14 game unbeaten run in the championship that would ultimately propel them into the Premiership. Ah, yes, September 2012 was a good month.

Against this backdrop of unremitting positivity I set up my first business, a creative agency in Soho. We were going to change the marketing world for the better. And so we gave ourselves the suitably world-changing name of Mr President.

Fast-forward five years to September 2017 and that name choice may have been an error.

The world has indeed changed, but not for the better. The bequiffed bigot on the opposite side of the pond has been doing his best to undo so much that was progressive in the world. We get first hand evidence of his negative impact daily as we are the unfortunate owners of the @MrPresident twitter handle.

@Tym4peace @mrpresident how am I going to afford my medical insurance

@cd0012 “I was handed a total mess” @mrpresident? Look at the economic disaster @presidentobama inherited. Get on with the job you campaigned for.

@Charles47267102 @MrPresident please help me I’m 65 and all I have is a dog and a daughter

@Charles47267102 sir I truly believe you’re a great leader, God Bless you

His attempts at making the world feel a more isolated, angry and exclusive place have only been accelerated by the divisive, self-sabotage of Brexit. For a business that deals with global clients with an international team of employees, these regressive developments are more than alarming. Especially when you are seemingly named after its chief protagonist.

The prevailing sense of negativity has hugely impacted our industry. WPP, the world’s largest advertising group, has just faced its weakest underlying revenue growth since 2009. September saw its shares fall by as much as 13%, wiping $2.6bn of its market value.

When the world struggles financially, the advertising industry is the first to be hit. The latest IPA Bellwether report demonstrates an industry in paralysis, as Paul Bainsfair, the IPA director general states,

“What strikes us most from this quarter’s report is the extent to which UK companies – and their marketing budgets – are caught up in wider economic and geo-political uncertainty. The vast majority are in a seeming state of paralysis, reflected in the fact that almost 70% of UK marketers haven’t revised their budgets one way or another from this quarter to last.”

Shit. Happy Birthday to us.

But, as we go into our fifth year of growth, we have a contrary point of view on the situation. Perhaps we all need to experience this horror show in order to galvanise us to fight for a better world.

I would rather expose the underlying issues that are still present in our industry and the wider world. From diversity, to wage disparity, to our own #fakenews, to corporations prioritising profit over people.

The developments of the last few years have brought our need for positive change to a head. We need a sense of anger at the regressive status quo, because it is only then that we are all motivated to fight for change.

The independent creative sector has always represented a far leaner, more prolific, more creative model that seriously threatens the fattened margin expectations of established agency networks. When clients start to tighten their belts, they could either squeeze the behemoth they are with, or they could make a radical leap to a more progressive model.

The paralysis in the sector is terrible news for the big boys, but it is wonderful news for those agencies that are prepared to reinvent how the model works. It is in those agencies that the hope and optimism of September 2012 still burns bright.

They are the independents that believe in a more inclusive and diverse workforce; that to do different you need to be different. The progressives who help their clients smart their way out of paralysis. The ones that are already striving to make a positive impact on the world.

As the last five years have proved, the crappier it gets, the more we need to stand up and fight for what’s right. Optimism in the face of adversity is what leads to progression.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” - Obama.

Nick Emmel, Mr. President co-founder and chief strategy officer

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