C4's 'We’re the superhumans’: proves creativity can create change
C4's 'We’re the superhumans’: proves creativity can create change
A view from Chaka Sobhani

Reasons to be cheerful despite Brexit

There's currently a huge amount of uncertainty amid the political and social upheaval, but focusing on how bad it could get won't help us. Don't forget that those who win in turbulent times tend to win big, writes Chaka Sobhani, the chief creative officer at Leo Burnett London.

It has been a funny old year. All of the catastrophising and the continuous stream of horror stories, shock exits, shock entrances and the political and economic fallout in the press can easily make you spiral into the deepest depression if you let it.

My family and I have been talking about moving for the past 12 months. But, the other day, I found myself announcing to my better half and the kids that we should perhaps hold off for the time being. This, needless to say, went down like a balloon full of shit.

My six-year-old looked at me, rage quickly taking over as she realised her dream of a bedroom of her own, sans sister, was slipping through her fingers, while my wife sighed deeply as she looked around at all the crap in the house she was hoping to secretly ditch in the move.

Our little domestic tale is a sign of the times. Everything seems to be put on hold at the moment and everyone seems more on edge, more serious.

If you think 2016 is turning out to be one of the worst years in recent memory, look back (if you’re old enough to remember) to 1979, which brought with it the Winter of Discontent, widespread public-sector strikes and Margaret Thatcher getting elected.

But none of that stopped, or perhaps it propelled, the creative communities of the day leading a golden era in the history of British culture – from The Clash, Joy Division and Roxy Music to film classics such as Alien, Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Quadrophenia.

1979 was also the year Ian Dury and the Blockheads released the masterpiece Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3. Against a grim political and economic backdrop, Dury focused on making music to make people smile, singing: "The juice of the carrot, the smile of a parrot, a little drop of claret, anything that rocks."

They don’t write lyrics like that any more. If visualising the smile of a parrot doesn’t cheer you up, you could try adopting a different perspective on the current state of the world.

Politics is back on the agenda for the first time in years and women like Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Nicola Sturgeon and, hopefully, Hillary Clinton are taking the top jobs.

We’re also lucky enough to be living through a technological revolution that is changing the world and our everyday lives for the better in so many ways.

The IPA Bellwether Report is predicting a fall in adspend and has significantly downgraded its forecasts for 2017 as a result of the uncertainty caused by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. That will get a lot of us running for cover and adopting a bunker mentality. But focusing on how bad it might all turn out to be will not get us through this and won’t do anything to help us make a success of things in the future.

The reality check we are currently undergoing could help end complacency and, ultimately, make us all better at our jobs. At the moment everyone – clients and agencies alike – is holding their breath and waiting.

This means everything is potentially up for grabs for the right kind of opportunist. Those brands that actually listen to what people out there are saying and truly engage will be the winners. The brands that can contribute and be of use to people, and which keep their nerve and don’t hold back, will triumph.

It is also worth remembering that those who win in times of turbulence tend to win big. And there’s inspiration all around – just look at the new Channel 4 "We’re the superhumans" trailer, which is not only bloody brilliant but is continuing to help shift attitudes to disability.

Creativity has that power. It can unify and create change in the face of fear, division and the unknown. I promise you that taking three minutes of your time to watch this film will do a whole lot more to ignite your creative spark and get you motivated about what is possible than a lifetime of fretting over gloomy bellwethers.

I’m not saying it’s easy to be positive. I’ve caught myself frowning while reading yet another shock headline, a knot tightening in my stomach. But I’ve been trying to play Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 on repeat in my head. And asking myself: where did stalling, dithering and following the herd ever get anyone

This is the time to take opportunities, to act decisively. To unknot and then follow your gut. Back at home, I’ve been doing my best to practise what I preach. I’ve called the estate agent. My six-year-old is happily drawing new plans for her den and my missus smiles each time she drives off with another shitload of stuff to chuck out. Things are definitely looking up.

Chaka Sobhani is the chief creative officer at Leo Burnett London.