Phoenix from the ashes

by Julian Westaby.

From the ashes

From the ashes

Lots of turmoil in the Scottish ‘marketing’ industry at the moment and because of a number of high-profile closings, we got round to speaking about ‘Phoenix’ firms in the studio today. ‘Phoenix’? It’s the ‘tabloid’ term for those punters that fold a firm, only to open-up as a similar outfit, (with a slightly different name and most of the same staff) a few days later.

Now, there’s lots of legal and moral arguments as to what exactly is the right, wrong, cynical, naughty and just downright shitty thing to do. We’re not judging here, as it’s usually pretty hard to comment on the demise and rise of any firm, because you don’t know all the facts. However, it’s interesting to note the diffferent attitudes people have to the failure or folding of a firm. We’d like to believe most people struggle on to the very last minute, gamely trying to keep their head above water. Perhaps this attitude is sometimes not the right one? Perhaps a bit of honesty with all the staff a good bit before might be a better way to handle it?

It’s pretty well charted that most really successful business people have, at one time or other, made a bit of an arse of it. Even old Platinum-Balls, Simon Cowell was bankrupt and skint before he became one of the most conspicuously wealthy and succesful people on the planet.

Anyway, the point is, we’re getting a bit fed up with the same old ‘recession’ chat and whether it might be a ‘v’ shaped ‘w’ shaped a ‘u’ shaped (or any other shape) of recovery. Business is a risk and if everyone in Britain remains judgemental and still continues to stigmatise those who’ve had a go and failed, nobody will take risks, nobody will build business and nobody will take a ‘punt’ on doing something diffferent or backing anything diffferent. That won’t help build the Scottish economy.

The problem is, our industry, because of its relatively small start-up costs, has seen a few crackers, when it comes to ‘Phoenix’ scenarios. It’s also seen appalling abuses of really hard working staff. It’s interesting to note that some of the former staff at Faulds Advertising, (which went tits-up five years ago) are only getting some money now! It’s clear that the management of Faulds in its final days was ruthless and if you believe the Internet grapevine, a lot more besides. Sadly, it’s these high-profile closures that reflect badly on other firms that traded well, were totally honest brokers but just couldn’t ride the recession.

So, we need to stop the knee jerk judgements. If you only know one Industry and you crash and burn, if you’ve got mouths to feed and if you’re not a Hedge Fund wanker with a morally dubious ‘pension’, you’ve got absolutely no option but to go back to work. And if that means starting up again, morally, that’s the right thing to do.

Our industry attracts creative people and if they’re creative in a good way, that’s great. If they try to get creative with people’s feelings or their living or their salaries, that’s a different matter altogether.