Spooner on…the stark reality of the Brexit vote

spooner newIt is only in the past few days that Lord McKelvey Of That Ilk, editor of this classy, online organ and myself have begun to recover from the vast and unwieldy hangovers that we bravely acquired on the Croisette and in our usual Sarkozy Suite at the Hotel Clouseau et Kato behind the bus station at Cannes (4 Euros a night, 4.5 with access to the communal ‘facilities’).
Good Lord! What in the name of Lester Wunderman has been going on?!
England’s football team have failed to achieve glory at an international tournament! The Tory party has splintered into a thousand poisonous fragments! Ditto the Labour party! There is a new Absolutely Fabulous Film in which Kate Moss ‘dies’! Beyonce has visited Sunderland AND Cardiff (Cardiff!)! Wimbledon is flailing about in a flurry of rackets, strawberries, abusive language and white knickers! Steve Aldridge is trying to source a new supplier for his hair extensions! (OK, I made that last one up, but you get the drift.)
Oh and as if that weren’t enough to be going along with, the great British public has decided that it doesn’t want to be European any more.
Aside from the fact that the particular corner of heaven or hell reserved for my dear Papa, Terrence Albert, will now be subject to cyclonic weather unimagined even by Milton himself as his shade revolves at over 2,500rpm, this is also terribly bad news for everyone in the advertising and marketing world.
‘Whyyyy?’ I hear you cry, as you mumble your way through your full English/Scottish/Northern-Irish/Welsh breakfasts.
‘Tell us, oh Spoon! Why is BREXIT bad for business? Surely our markets are all indigenous? Surely a stronger, independent Britain will generate more and better marketing revenues rather than less? Surely our remorselessly monoglot marketing culture was always separate from and superior to the ghastly transcontinental uniformity that characterises both the average European TV commercial and the music played in the foyer of the Hotel Clouseau et Kato at 5am as I am dragging Lord McKelvey in through the sliding doors which keep closing on his sporran?
Surely we can now escape the horrors of EU legislation on such matters as honesty, permission and cookies? Surely with that charming, loyal Gove or the fragrant, not-at-all-scary May at the helm we’ll be entering a new dawn of life-changing, free-market marketing the like of which has not been since John Watson wrote his first cross-head? Surely it’s all good?’
No it isn’t.
And here’s why. Quite simply, an isolationist ‘United’ Kingdom is very bad for business. Leave aside the relocation of innumerable asset management and financial services organisations from London to Frankfurt and Hamburg along with their marketing budgets, employees and great, thundering, swirling funnels of cash
(I’ve often, in my more dispeptic moments, felt we’d be better off without them). Leave aside the economic woes that every media organisation in the land is wailing forth as the inevitable consequence of Brexit. Leave aside the slightly unpleasant sense that everyone now has that his-or-her neighbour might be a racist. Forget all of that shizzle for the time being. What is really going to hurt all of us here in the UK’s glorious marketing services industry is that the rest of the world is going to see us for what we are:
Small, post colonial, self-referential, defeated.
In fact, the process has already been visible for a long time. Yes, Proximity may have won prizes at Cannes this year for their smart, ironic, pro-bono work for the Economist – but over the past few years, even decades, more and more of the top awards have gone to Brazilian, Australian, Dutch, German, US, Finnish, you-name-it agencies.
It’s a bit like the football isn’t it; as Roderick, Lord McKelvey’s gardener often says through his pint of Diamond White – ‘Taught it to the world so that they can beat us at it. Bastards!’
Well that won’t wash. The Americans probably invented what we do and we have enjoyed a slick, oh-so-superior, quasi-ironic heyday that has lasted for about 40 years – not a bad innings, to mix my sporting analogies.
But a ‘Brexited’ UK that has lost its ‘51st state’ status as a doorstep to Europe isn’t looking very attractive to many global organisations – and it’s not as if we have a vibrant manufacturing industry to market to the rest of the world is it?
BUT WAIT A MINUTE. Perhaps this will mean that we have to develop a little humility (and not just in the sense of begging to be let back in) and recognise that we have no monopoly on good ideas?
Perhaps this is just the kind of ‘truth to power’ moment that the UK marketing industry requires in order to start valuing the insights, intuition, experience, art direction, copywriting, digital, directorial and entrepreneurial skills that have lately become somewhat unfashionable in the gaping, ravenous omni-channel vortex?
Perhaps next year when Lord McKelvey Of That Ilk, editor of this classy, online organ and myself are beginning to recover from the vast and unwieldy hangovers that we have, again, bravely acquired on the Croisette and in our usual Sarkozy Suite at the Hotel Clouseau et Kato behind the bus station at Cannes (now at 12 Euros a night, 15 with access to the communal ‘facilities’), perhaps then we can turn to each other and say,
‘Good Lord, vast slew of awards for the ‘United’ Kingdom this year, eh what?’
We may live in an ‘uneuropeaned’ country, but we also live in hope.

Jonathan Spooner is executive creative director at Tangible

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