Gerry Graf, brilliant US ECD and agency owner gave a speech in New York’s Advertising Week that (tongue somewhat in cheek) went a little something like this:
“The reason why people don’t take chances is because they’re afraid, right? And what are they afraid of? They’re afraid of losing their jobs. That’s why people are not brave in our industry. So, they’re afraid of not having money. I would remove fear from the equation, and I have some suggestions for both clients and agency people.
“Keep the overhead low. Don’t get married. Don’t have children. Have no dependents. Avoid second mortgages. Try to pay everything in cash.
“Follow the lead of Steve Jobs and stay unmarried for as long as possible, so you can spend all your time at work. Don’t buy a boat. Move to Queens. If you are married, do not get divorced. Love your spouse with all your heart and make sure they love you because one, love is good and everything, and two, nothing kills a creative career like divorce. Alimony can make you stay at horrible jobs. If you have your own company and you get divorced, you can lose half of that, right? So, love, love, love. And if you have kids, you can ignore them until they’re about 5; they won’t remember.”
Of course, every joke is a truth in disguise. I read that and wondered about the climate of fear that many of us live within. Chatting to my dad (a semi-retired financial journalist) I discovered that the very fear that keeps us more timid than we would like to be is actually the same fear that’s continuing to fuck up the economy. After the global meltdown of 2008 many people are still too scared to spend their money. Inflation is low, interest rates are low, but nobody wants to borrow money because they know what happened when they did that ten years ago.
So the money that needs to swirl around the economy in order to keep it growing is just sitting in bank accounts, keeping the spectre of fear just a little further at bay. The idea of people doing what Gerry is suggesting – holding onto as much of your cash for as long as possible – is very appealing, but it reduces the risk-taking that we’d all love to see. No one wants to make the grand gestures that could see them having to sell their car or move to a shitty neighbourhood. We’ve been burned, we hated it and we’ll go to great lengths to avoid it happening again. And that extends to many creative industries: who wants to take the risk? The 2008 fucking that the economy experienced will continue to reverberate down the years…
Unless someone shows us the way out. There are other ways, and the more people that find them the more the rest of us will consider those ways to be the norm.
Because things can’t carry on like this. Or, rather, if they do, life will lean further and further in the direction of being nothing more than a gigantic diarrhoea sandwich that we all have to chow down on every single day.
Surely a burst or two of bravery is less unpleasant than a couple of thousand more weeks of shitting bricks.