Before You Leap Into 2012, Take One Step Back

‘Tis the season and ‘tis the profession to look forward. To let old acquaintances be forgot along with technology that’s more than 15 minutes old and ideas that got 3 million hits on YouTube last month. Let’s face it, this time of year fits well with the mindset of our industry. One that’s driven by what’s just around the corner, whether it’s the next campaign, the next pitch or the next big thing. And I not only understand but embrace this mindset as, well, it completely mirrors my own.

I have a feeling advertising attracts people who have trouble standing still for a few minutes, much less getting satisfaction out of their accomplishments. But while I’m already spending a good 90 percent of my energy on what lies ahead in the first month of 2012, I am forcing myself to spend a moment to look back and think of all the cool stuff that took place in the last 12 months. And, no matter how foreign this idea is, I urge you to do the same.

For me, it was an exhausting year in many ways, but one of my most satisfying. With the help of my partners and the people in our company, I got to direct my first feature film around a concept that was dear to my heart at the start and close to all-consuming by the end. Then I got to watch that concept go from being a half-baked idea to something that was on the local news, to the lead story on Yahoo. More importantly, I got to bring all these incredible new people into my life as a result of the project including principal Jones, Satra Zurita, the head of the Compton school board and numerous civil servants, humanitarians and other ordinary folks like myself who were just looking for a little inspiration to create their own platform. I’ve always said our business is about the people, and I got to meet more good, smart, generous people in 2011 than any year I can remember.

I also got to learn about a hell of a lot of really interesting stuff. We tend to minimize this benefit of our job, but there was one moment last year where it became particularly apparent. I was driving back from an interview with one of the physician/scientists at our Cedars-Sinai client, when it suddenly hit me how amazing it is that I just got to listen to one of the leading cancer researchers speak for an hour about the potentially world-changing breakthroughs he and his team are making, and I didn’t even have to buy a $1,000-a-plate chicken dinner for the privilege. Honestly, without either having cancer or going to four years of med school to work at Cedars-Sinai, there’s no way I’m able to hear this story unless I’m in advertising and lucky enough to work on the Cedars-Sinai business. I also got to hang out with Clay Matthews, Serena Williams and Carmelo Anthony on an ESPN shoot, work with my partner, Tracy, on our first pitch together and eat some really good Lebanese food in Detroit. Finally, I got to learn all sorts of new technological wizardry like how to create an app that scrubs your Facebook page and turns it into a personalized song and how to use projection to turn an ordinary piece of glass into a touch screen, which my partners Scott and Kris at our digital company, United Future, actually created.

(Like airplanes, I still can’t fully understand how it can work without, um, magic being involved.)

As far as ideas went, this was probably my favorite of those we produced:

Unfortunately, there were a bunch other really good ideas which came up somewhere short of actually getting produced for a variety of reasons that range from the garden variety to “the FBI just seized our Full Tilt Poker client’s business.”  But man, was it cool to be part of work for Conan, Epson and others that would have rocked the ad world had the ad world actually gotten the opportunity to seen them. In short, like most agencies these days, we’ve got some cleaning people who are super impressed with the comps they saw lying around our office in 2011.

I guess the point of all this, is that the best part of our business is that we get to learn a little about a lot of things, work with some really smart, creative and likable people and spend a good portion of each day trying to come up with stuff we think will delight and entertain others. So, no matter how many headaches you endured, disappointments you experienced and great ideas you had that met an untimely death, there have to be a few wonderful moments you experienced in 2011, specifically because you are in the ad business. So take a moment, breathe deep and reflect on them. Okay, time to go kick ass on 2012.

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