Opinion: Regrets of a dying ad man

James Procter
By James Procter | 13 March 2014

Always nice to start an article with a disclaimer, and mine is a simple one: I am not, to my knowledge, actually dying.

But after reading a recent article on the top regrets of the dying, I thought it would be interesting to think about professional regrets for people in our industry. And hopefully use it as a way to stimulate conversation around what we could do better.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list but here are a few that resonate with me:

I wish I’d done more work that made a difference
I think there is always a point in our lives where we think “What’s the point?”. Sure, we all have to do work that feeds the broader commerce machine, but there is the other kind of work that we wish we’d done more of: Charities, not for profits, small businesses that usually wouldn’t have access to resource. It’s not specific to a task or even a company. It’s more about what you give versus what you get back. Maybe we need a ‘Work for the Soul’ scheme.

I wish I’d pursued my ideas more
We work in such an entrepreneurial space, so it’s no surprise that everyone you speak to in our industry has a business idea or two in their bottom drawer. But we don’t do anything with them until someone else does them: “Oh I had that whole Facebook idea ages ago”. I think it’s important that the agency model of the future encourages and resources employees’ ideas.

Hell, maybe this will help us overcome another big issue: putting a value on our ideas.

I wish I’d failed more
Well, hopefully not too much as I’ve just started a new business. But in summoning the courage to begin a startup, one of my favourite quotes kept resonating through my head “Sometimes you have to jump off a cliff and build wings on the way down”.

But I think a paradox exists in our industry: we all want to do work that stands out, and yet a lot of our industry is about risk management and mitigation.

Businesses that will own a big share of the future are those that learn how to harness risk to make it a natural part of the process. They will celebrate the learnings gained from failing (and hopefully winning) and make it a big part of who they are.

I wish I’d been more of a builder
It’s so easy to pick holes in things. I know that as a creative director and an analytical person by nature, I can be the Chief Picky Pants but it’s not the best side of me. And there are people that make a career in telling people what’s wrong with things. But I don’t think these people are theimportant ones. The important people are the builders. The ones that add, expand, reinforce, bounce, accelerate, pump up etc. All the things that validate the thinker and the thinking that helps an idea get better.

I wish I’d had more fun
I could be straying into a reminiscent cliche here but I’ll have a crack. I think we all got into advertising/marketing/branding because we thought it looked fun - thinking of ideas for money sounds awesome. Then we get in, go through a couple of financial crisis etc. and we can end up grinding ourselves a path of mediocrity. Without wanting to step on Justin Timberlake’s toes, we need to find a way to bring the fun back. Not just because it helps us get to better ideas but because it’s a much better way to spend the countless hours that we all spend at work (still haven’t done my time sheets).

But these are just my ramblings on a subjective and personal topic. I’d love to know what you think. Chief Picky Pants need not comment.

James Procter
One Small Step Collective
Founder | Creative Director

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