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The Thrilling Uncertainty of Now
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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"Welcome to the thrilling uncertainty of now."

That was the closing sentence of the speaker for the last honors convocation that we attended as a student. That sentence, though so simple, was so compelling to us, and has stuck with us to this day.

How true it is.

Even more so in the advertising industry. Our landscape is changing at such a rapid pace, it is exciting, frustrating, and interesting all at the same time. As digital marketing and big data rises to the top, we have to start at square one at developing relationships. As social media shifts to priority number one, we have to backtrack and re-focus on the importance of copy and brand consistency.

And it doesn't stop there. If AdLand as a whole is an issue, turn your eyes away from the hot mess that is the agency world. As these shops "cling to life" there are multiple important conversations going on, with few answers and even fewer people trying to use those answers. How can agencies recruit and retain minority talent? Why aren't women moving faster into executive roles? Why aren't young Adpeople staying at agencies? Where's all the creativity going? How can agencies create a thriving environment for creativity and technology? What's the best compensation structure? Should spec work carry a value? How can small agencies effectively compete against the big and bad holding groups? Is there an industry standard definition for "ROI"?

Just to name a few.

Then we have our external arguments, like the government for example. Where is the fine line between protecting the consumer from deceitful practices, and hog-tying the AdLand community? We agree that some regulation is better than no regulation, for we will be among the first to admit there are some bad apples in our crowd. But, calling the consumer "intelligent" and turning around and putting rule after rule, fine after fine for "misleading" practices is a gross overestimation of the power of advertising, and a gross insult to the intelligence of the consumer. 

Lastly is the debate about the purpose of advertising. The past decades have given advertising such a beating that people make up words and phrases to tell others what they do. Now, we have "unmarketers," "change agents," and "goodvertisers."

Just to name a few.

Advertising has the power to do good, bad, or nothing. It has the power to bring to light causes and issues that can push our society along. It has the power to bring detrimental trends and degrading thoughts to the forefront. It has the power to transcend issues, racial boundaries, geography, and age. 

It has the power to ignore everything too, and focus on the brand's bottom line.

The uncertainty of now is as uncertain as we make it. But the speaker from years ago was right; thrilling is a great way to describe it.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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