Glass Half Full

I have always been someone who has looked on the brighter side of life, while still knowing that something terrible might happen at any minute. This may be the result of the fact that we founded our company during the 1987 stock market crash. Like most optimistic pessimists, we had to turn lemon pits into lemonade. But nothing could have prepared us for September.

With the tragic events at hand, along with the dot-com crash, client cutbacks, the hacking air quality near our offices, unfortunate layoffs and some pretty tatty press, just showing up wasn’t as fun as it used to be.

But that didn’t stop us or the industry. Like most glass-half-empty/glass-half-full ad folks (especially the New York breed), we are a hardened and resilient lot. We know when to argue and when to bond. Think of the public-service work we as an industry created after 9/11. We helped clients craft appropriate messaging that helped calm an unnerved public. Consumers wanted to hear from the brands they trust, and we helped the companies find their voice.

While my glass-half-empty side struggled through this dark period, my glass-half-full side started filling up. Perhaps the focus on pro-bono instead of billings got the flow going. Many of us turned our attentions to refining and redirecting our pitches. Many of us also redefined ourselves. That’s OK. Everybody needs a little spring cleaning now and again.

I sense that many of us are trying to get back to the core of why we entered this business to begin with: simply put, creating great work for our clients that works. The core is getting back to the core idea.

In the last few years, the focus was on everything but the creative idea: globalization, corporate profits, mergers and acquisitions, valuations, budgets, satellite offices, conflicts, conferences, office decor. It seems like we drugged ourselves or deadened the pain with a myriad of advertising-related tasks or opportunities.

How much emphasis did we place on just sitting in a room and dreaming? Dreaming big ideas and getting turned on by the electricity of a concept? How much value did we attach to our dream clients? Clients who would push and support us? (If those clients are both smart and nice, I for one will pick up their dry cleaning.)

And how much value was put on nurturing our young people and helping them evolve as future leaders? We all need to focus on the next generation. Perhaps there’s a young Jay or Phil lurking about. (Although I must say it’s a pleasure to no longer hear, “Does the junior copywriter position come with stock options?”)

There you have it. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it is getting better. Business has a pulse again, and my optimistic antennae have picked up something even more important: a real sea change in behavior. There’s a dedication to the work. A sense of appreciation. More consideration and teamwork. An enhanced level of trust. A renewed commitment to our clients.

As the economy bounces back, not only will we have better profits, we will, hopefully, have better, lasting values. I’ll never stop worrying, but I am ready to toast the future with my half-full glass.