VoxPop: Why should we be optimistic about the future?

Rakuten TV

Russell Davies, russell@russelldavies.com

“I’ve just been emailed asking for 100 words on ‘why we should be optimistic about the future’. And, weirdly, I’m sitting trying to write an answer while I’m in a meeting with lots of advertising people in Beirut. And it struck me that they might know something about hard times. They’re not trying to remember what it’s like to work in a recession, they’re trying to forget what it’s like to be bombed. So I asked them. And the best answer was simple. ‘We should be optimistic because optimists make things better’. The future is built by optimists. Optimists see opportunity round every corner. Optimists get things done. Optimists are good to talk to. Optimism is a self-fulfilling attitude. Optimists are lucky because they see the potential in things. Good things happen to optimists. And if you can’t be optimistic, be thankful no-one’s shooting at you.”

Pete Mill, Creative Director, 60w

“I remember the tail end of 1990 as though it was yesterday. I was 33. The Leith Agency was six. Homer Simpson was just a new born. Julia Roberts was still a Pretty Woman. Maggie, Maggie, Maggie was out, out, out. And then, after the binge bingeing of the 80s came the mother of all hangovers. In the ad business, what worked then will work now. Tighten your belts, keep your debts low and be prepared to work longer and harder for less. Recession is as much a time of opportunity as boom time and what matters most at times like these is experience.”

Phil Adams, Managing Partner, Blonde

“The most positive thing about the last recession is that it was recent enough for people to remember it. And to remember the (sometimes harsh) lessons learned from it. People who learned those lessons at the sharp end are now running marketing services businesses. And those people will know that a recession doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Indeed, hard times usually give strong businesses an extra advantage. The cream rises more rapidly during a recession. Just ask AC/DC.”

Pete Martin, Creative Director, The Gate

“We started our agency during the last ‘depression’ and guess what? Downturns don’t last. It might not feel like it but the next boom begins here. Companies that stay sharp and take care of customers especially when they’re not spending much are banking goodwill at rock bottom prices.”

David Byrne, Freelance Account Director

“I asked myself this question a couple of months back. So I went along to a George Soros talk, a man who has long predicted a financial crash and who made much of his fortune in the last serious crisis in 1992. Soros was being interviewed by Alain de Botton and this is some of what I learned: Soros – Markets are cyclical, if you look hard enough you can always find value; De Botton (Quoting Seneca) – Contemplate the very worst that could happen, calculate how unlikely that scenario is and do everything in your power to prevent it happening. How does that effect us? Simple, get over the paralysing fear, the no biscuits/cabs/toilet roll nonsense and instead focus all energies on finding the value in your client’s products and your own agency skill sets. Understand your current client’s business problems, and partner with them to develop solutions. If they won’t engage, spend your time looking for clients who do want help. It’s going to be a long struggle, but if you keep energy and focus you’ll come out of it better than your competitors.”

Uncle Carl

“During the last recession I saw new agencies being created, new teams appearing, new offerings brought to market and new pricing models were generated. The recession can be seen as a forest fire; it clears space, kills off the old and unhealthy and allows new shoots to appear. Strong businesses survived, others changed their business model and improved and the rubbish well they disappeared - the same will happen again. New businesses will be born and new models created - how exciting is that! Be prepared to change or be prepared to be burnt.”

Phil Teer, Planning Partner, St Luke’s

“Reasons to be optimistic: The economically bleak late 70’s brought us punk rock, an explosion of creativity that changed popular culture forever. This recession will unleash marketing’s own punk revolution with the fusion of social media and digital content. Tight budgets, intense competition for consumer attention, technology so accessible your mum is a digital creative, a demand for measurable results and low costs will push more marketing money into web 2.0. Nothing will be the same again. Brands will stop doing things to you and become “brands you can do”. Marketers will worry less about brand custodianship as they swap control for influence and agencies will produce a non-stop flow of ideas for always-on campaigns. This will be a great time to be creative as long as you are one of the punks.”

Ben Casey, Creative Director, The Chase

“Like many design companies I’ve spoken to recently we are incredibly busy. If I didn’t watch the news or read a morning paper I wouldn’t be aware of the recession. However, it would be foolish to think that the next 12 months are going to be easy. We are holding our breath for next year’s budgets. It is possible for smaller design groups to buck the trend and prosper as clients could be looking for smaller, more targeted projects. The design industry should be quietly confident if businesses have learnt from previous tough times when those who failed to invest in their brands lost ground when things picked up. But, as always, you’ll need a little luck, a lot of hard work and remember to keep on top of the housekeeping. A lot of design companies got into trouble during the last recession due to cash flow problems and clients going bust on them rather than lack of work.”

John Denholm, Managing Director, Denholm Associates

“What I remember about the last recession was that advertising and marketing became far more focused creatively. What goes hand in hand sometimes with creativity, an element of free thinking, can get a bit undisciplined and sometimes agencies move too far away from commercial realities. The pressures of a recession can provide a tightening up of thinking and focus agencies more.”

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