Liam Wilson is a creative director at Snap London and the only recorded case of a sea urchin injury at the Royal London Hospital. In his Write WHAT YOU KNOW series, he types random musings from his life and then draws an unconvincing parallel to the advertising industry, with all the grace of a reversing bin lorry.
I have suffered from a lifelong condition.
Unfortunately, it’s hereditary. In my genetics. In the blood.
It’s a condition that leaves me with heart palpitations, crippling anxiety, and on rare occasions bouts of sudden euphoria.
For I am a supporter of the Scottish national football team.
The bit where my diagnosis gets tricky is I have an English accent and was brought up south of Hadrian’s wall.
Alas, my dad indoctrinated me from a young age.
“Ye’r no English. Ye’r Scottish.”
Is that child abuse? Quite possibly when you consider the stress the Tartan Army has put me through. I didn’t really understand what he was saying anyway, because I didn’t have his subtitles switched on.
Family north of the border assisted the radicalisation by sending me football shirts, Broons and Oor Wullie comics, and liberal swearing which I always found both poetic and amusing.
When every kid in the playground wants to be David Beckham and you’d rather be Duncan Ferguson, you know you’ve got a lifetime of problems ahead of you.
Something is not quite right mentally when a man nicknamed Duncan Disorderly, infamous for his arrest after headbutting a player on the pitch, has become your hero. Not the good-looking global icon nicknamed Golden Balls.
My earliest memory of being a Scotland fan is as a distraught five-year old crying when Gazza scored that goal in Euro 96. I can vividly remember my next-door neighbour, Kevin, taunting us over the fence. We sprayed him with a hose.
This would become a distress rehearsal for the next few decades of my life.
Defeat. Crying. And then hosing the misery down with copious beers.
Back in the day, my parents managed to convince me that the reason we couldn’t have Sky Sports to watch the Scotland games was because the nearby trees meant we couldn’t get signal in our house.
Not the fact the bolt on sports package cost the same as the GDP of Estonia.
Or because letting your kid watch Scotland lose to Lichtenstein is tantamount to neglect.
Although thinking about it now mum, if you’re reading this website for advertising professionals despite the fact you work in a school, it is kinda weird how the same trees didn’t stop Kevin enjoying satellite tv, isn’t it…
So, no telly meant when the qualifiers came round, we couldn’t watch it at home.
Meaning my dad would go pub to pub with me, like a wee Joseph and Mary seeking hospitality.
Jesus was away in a manger. Scotland were away in Macedonia.
But rather than being told there was no room at the inn, we were met by Essex landlords and “You avin’ a larf? The Scotland game? No chance mate. People are supposed to come to the pub to get away from their shit lives.”
*Whistle blows* Now, if you’re concerned that this whole article is about Scottish football and worried it’s not for you – spoiler alert – the theme of the piece is about resilience. Think of yourself as a Scottish fan having to endure the lack of professionalism, discipline, and creative flair before you. Stick with my words for a little longer, and you’ll be rewarded with some jokes about my lack of fitness later on.
*Whistle blows*. Play resumes.
Scotland are known in football as glorious failures. The oh-so-nearlys. The could’ve-beens.
They seem to get a kick out of conceding in the 90th minute.
They have a penchant for beating footballing giants like France and Germany, only to draw 2-2 against the Faroe Islands.
In advertising terms, that’s like beating Wiedens or AMV in a pitch.
Only to lose the next one to a digital content agency from Skegness.
Scotland had been in the footballing wilderness for years.
No real elite talent.
You wait years for some proper star quality to arrive. A gifted goalscorer. A predator in the box perhaps. And then along comes two world-beating…*checks notes*… left backs.
Things got so desperate at one point, I’m surprised they didn’t do a sponsorship deal with ancestry.com - the coaching staff scouring family trees to find anyone with a Scottish granny.
I’m fairly sure the research team on BBC show Who do you think you are? are the scouting network responsible for signing up Australian striker Lyndon Dykes and his English counterpart Che Adams, both of whom are now Scottish legends.
And then, dear reader, something miraculous happened.
Last Summer, Scotland did the unthinkable.
First, the host of The Apprentice becomes US President.
The bloke who once got stuck on a zipwire announced as Prime Minister.
Hugging your nan illegal.
Scotch eggs a substantial meal.
Toilet roll: currency.
And then Scotland qualify for an actual football tournament.
What a time to be alive.
The second game of the tournament, Scotland faced the auld enemy.
It was like ’96 all over again.
People always expect Scotland to get battered.
There’s even a chant English fans sing to the tune of The beautiful South- Rotterdam or anywhere.
“Scotland get battered everywhere they goooo. Everywhere they go”
Not true. Scotland batter everything to go.
Takeaway pizzas, kebabs, Mars bars, crème eggs: nothing is safe from a Glaswegian deep fat fryer.
And to their surprise we played well. And we gave them a game.
In fact, Scotland won 0-0.
My dad and I celebrated big time.
He even came back to the afters at my mate Joe’s for a little boogie-woogie.
He’s the man in the picture that accompanies this article up top.
For legal reasons and to protect his identity, I have obscured his face with a Square Sausage (a staple of the Scottish breakfast. Which incidentally beats a full English, every day of the week. Come fight me.)
The reason I’m writing about this topic this month is because Scotland are two games away from going to a World Cup. A feat they haven’t achieved since 1998.
22 years. And then, finally, we’ll be at the pinnacle of international football.
Albeit in November.
In the desert.
In the glorious footballing nation of Qatar.
If you’ve ever been to Magaluf, you’ll know Scots don’t usually fair so well in the sun, let alone a football pitch. It may well be the first time we’ll witness a professional footballer get stretchered off with sunburn. And time added on for sun cream application.
Before you get too excited, first Scotland have to beat Ukraine.
I think their defence might have enough on its plate at the moment without having to worry about marauding attacks from wee John McGinn and Andy Robertson.
That last sentence may sound rather flippant given everything going on, but it’s depressingly true.
When I started writing this article, Ukraine wasn’t in the news.
There was probably a bloke in Kyiv the same age as me excitedly writing an article about his country being two games away from a World Cup. And now he’s having to bear arms and fight for his right to exist, all because some nuclear-grade knobhead has a small penis.
OK, you’ve rambled enough Liam. First, sport. Then Geopolitics.
What the fuck does any of this have to do with advertising?
Well, the same way I’ve had to grow a thick skin in supporting Scotland, the same applies to being a creative.
You’re going to lose the odd pitch. You’ll probably comes a “close second” a few times.
A lot of your ideas are not going to get bought. Even though they’re genius goddammit.
You just have to stay resilient.
But perhaps more importantly, you’ve got to celebrate the wins when they do come knocking. No matter how busy you are, you have to make time to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.
That’s something that we try and do at Snap London.
I’ve had it before at agencies where I’ve worked tirelessly on a pitch, discovered we’ve won, but been too busy to celebrate because I’m slammed on the next pitch.
However, celebrating the wins doesn’t just have to be the World Cups of work life.
It can be the small stuff too.
The things that don’t even necessarily look like wins.
Maybe you were a producer in the pandemic, trying to herd cats and build sets over zoom.
Perhaps you’re a creative stuck who spent two years stuck in the spare room staring at the same four walls, yet still managed to come up with fresh ideas.
Or you’re one of the account team who had to calm nervous clients down because the key cast came down with Covid the night before the shoot.
A small win might simply be convincing the client to go for your favourite director.
Or convincing them it’s worth finding that extra £20k down the back of the metaphorical sofa.
Maybe it’s celebrating the fact your agency has survived Brexit, Covid, War and three new marketing directors. Because, let’s face it, the last few years have been an uphill struggle of epic proportions.
Speaking of, I did a 10k run a few weeks ago.
A couple of mates who are runners had suggested it before the pandemic.
In all honesty, I had kinda forgotten I’d signed up to it.
I hadn’t researched the race course.
I hadn’t stopped to contemplate the fact it was in Greenwich Park.
Famed for its Royal Observatory tower.
You normally only stick observatory towers in places that are high up.
Like, say, on a hill, maybe.
That hadn’t crossed my mind.
But it soon crossed my lungs and crippled my hamstrings.
What’s more, it was the day after Storm Eunice had wreaked havoc.
It was raining. I had no training. It was a wee bit windy, and I was blowing hard after 500 metres. (Out of breath in Greenwich Park, not blowjobs in Hampstead Heath before you make a puerile joke).
I struggled up that hill so badly, even Eunice gave up trying to give me a helping hand.
I was like a punctured Transit van being pushed up Kilimanjaro.
All the while a spare tyre hanging over my shorts.
I genuinely contemplated asking the St John’s ambulance guy for a lift home on lap one.
I longed to be wrapped up in one of those tin foil blankets they give marathon runners, like a little snug burrito. Mmm, burrito. I noticed people handed out water bottles but not Mexican-based culinary snacks. Very disappointing.
The spectacle of me running in that gale was so laughably turbulent, I assumed the man from Big Jet TV would be there giving live commentary.
Then you get the smug finance guys wearing running shirts with JP Morgan and Credit Suisse emblazoned across their backs. A moving target.
I want to thank them for giving me the motivation to run faster.
Mainly so I could bludgeon them Duncan Ferguson style.
Meanwhile, I imagined the people behind me as chasing clients demanding the logo to be made bigger and account people asking for some “teenie weenie copy tweaks for 9am”.
Alas, it was not a fun run.
It was a fundamentally bad decision.
But I managed to do it.
And so I celebrated, like all elite athletes do.
Ok maybe not all. Just Tyson Fury.
By rehydrating with lots and lots of lager.
I’m actually writing the second half of this article on a massive hangover after coming back from my stag do. Which I suppose is like celebrating the win of somebody actually wanting to marry you, despite your odious physical appearance and nauseating habits.
It’s also the second week of the Russian invasion.
It’s hard to feel like celebrating anything at all, to be honest.
The last few years have been brutal.
We’ve suffered blows and taken jabs.
The good news. The bad news. Even the fake.
So may I suggest treating yourself to a little pain au chocolat with your flat white once you’ve smashed that treatment presentation.
Shout about your awards on LinkedIn, if awards are your thing.
Have double pudding for lunch on that shoot.
Or take the Scottish football fan approach and jump in a public fountain in your kilt after four bottles of Buckfast to celebrate winning a 360 integrated pitch for that Double-Glazed Windows account.
Or here’s a Cannes Lion winning idea:
You could just go home and see your loved ones.
Shut your laptop, leave the so-called ‘War Room’.
The client may have just thrown you a ‘grenade’.
You might be ‘fighting’ a pitch.
But it’s just an advert, mate.
You’re not in Ukraine.
Or Afghanistan. Or anywhere else in the world blighted by conflict.
So get home for bath time tonight.
Go to the cinema. Or the pub. Or your favourite restaurant.
Because sometimes the best thing in the world is celebrating the nil-nils of life with the people you love.
…And seeing John McGinn score a bicycle kick against Austria. That’s pretty good too.