Ogilvy Dubai’s Elizabeth Dewar reckons ‘fannybaws’ creatives could learn a thing or two from Glasgow’s school gates
My Dad was raised in Glasgow in an area called Drumchapel.
(Also known as The Drum.)
The crammed post war-housing scheme was, and still is, rife with social problems and anti-social behavior.
Back in the late 60’s my Dad, ‘Wee Jimmy’, was about to make the move up to The Big School.
The move to secondary school required a lot of growing-up in a short amount of time.
The Big School was where the kids were first segregated. Catholics went to one school and the Protestant kids went to another - sectarianism starts young in Scotland.
One day while walking home from school, a group of boys from the rival school approached my Dad and his friends.
‘We’re gonnae f#*kin’ huv yees.’ (‘You’re dead meat’)
‘You wee fannybaws are gonnae get f#*kin’ battered.’ (‘You group of small vagina-testicles are going to be beaten within an inch of your life.)
In classic Scottish style, threats were made but nothing actually happened.
Now this went on for days, weeks even. The same threats over and over while they were walking home from school.
Initially the young boys lived in fear that one day they would finally get that ‘battering’, but eventually they realised it was all talk.
My Dad told me this story when I was starting in the industry, but it’s more relevant nearly four years on. It’s all too familiar.
It’s us creatives.
We throw threats around like confetti.
‘I’m never working with this client again!’
‘After Cannes, I’m out of this dump.’
‘I’m never accepting a brief off that amateur again.’
I’ve heard them all, and said some myself. But how often do we actually carry out these threats?
Normally people bring out the old ‘pick your battles line’ (which admittedly, from my experience means, ‘don’t pick this one’) meaning you should make sure the fight you’re about to start is worth starting, but more importantly, worth finishing.
I think that if we creatives want to be heard, we need to be taken seriously first. If we don’t do what we say then what we eventually do is become a bunch of whingers.
And nobody likes a whinger.
Back to Glasgow, it was nearly the end of term and after weeks of threats and abuse the boys were past living in fear - particularly my Dad.
So on the last day of term, ‘Wee Jimmy’ took himself down to the gates of the other boy’s school and waited.
When they came out he ‘battered’ those ‘wee fannybaws’.
He took on all five of them and walked away. I don’t know what happened after that but I know the ‘whinging’ came to an abrupt end.
Now, as well as keeping our reputations intact, one thing we’ve got to keep in mind about our threat sprinkling is that there might be a ‘Wee Jimmy’ out there getting more and more fed up.
And one day, he might just meet you at the gates.
Those life-lessons on the streets of Glasgow have taken my Dad many places (around the world and pretty high up the international construction pecking order in fact).
Of course he hasn’t ‘thrown any punches’ (literally or figuratively) at work, mainly because he’s not 11 years old anymore but also because he hasn’t had to.
One threat is enough.
Dad summed it up with, ‘Lizzie, there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that will tell you they are going to punch you in the face, and those that will punch you in the face.’
And he’s right.
Lets stop throwing idle threats around because it damages our integrity long-term. It’s time to suck it up and stop the whinging or if it really is absolutely necessary, make damn sure you get the first punch in.