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It's Time to Embrace Industry Navel-Gazing


2014 Wish List: Natalie Kim: Associate Director of Strategy, Firstborn

It's Time to Embrace Industry Navel-Gazing

Natalie Kim shares her hopes for the industry in 2014. 

1.    That we constantly play with emerging technology. 

There’s a lot to be excited about. From Bluetooth Low Energy and 3D printing to contextual UI, the future is banging down the door. Rather than waiting for these emerging technologies to get past their awkward clumsy phase only to settle into underwhelming business-as-usual, I hope ad agencies will get their hands dirty early on. Experiment with what’s new and serve up that knowledge to their clients, independent of a specific campaign. Instead of chasing tech for tech’s sake, prime clients on an ongoing basis, so that when an opportunity where the technology matches the need arises, they’re unafraid to pull the trigger. 


This industry occupies a unique position that has the potential to take technology and normalize it by contextualizing its use as a selling, communicating and experiential mechanism. By setting our expectations high and constantly tinkering, we can do our part in helping these emerging technologies realize their full potential faster. (Or on the flip side, drive it into the ground prematurely - with great power comes great responsibility, as they say.)


2.    That we embrace a bit of navel gazing. 

Plenty has been written about the industry’s tendency to speak to itself, to collectively pat ourselves on the back come awards season. But maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. Omphaloskepsis is the contemplation of one’s navel as an aid to meditation. Some even consider the navel to be a powerful chakra of the body. Likewise, the industry’s propensity to look inward and try to impress itself can be seen as an energy to be leveraged. 


People who work in advertising typically self-select to be younger, tech-savvy, culturally-connected early adopters who also fall into the highly coveted group we call influencers. Because of this, large awareness plays can benefit from the ripple effect of those in advertising and their spheres of influence. In this way, instead of calling each other out, we embrace the mutual masturbation and hack the industry and its social graph by using each other as amplification tools for our work. 


3.    That we stop and consider what is meaningful.

Some work with brands that are affecting the world in a positive way. Or brands with the business security and budgets to do the big, brand value-type work that’s devoid of product. Others may struggle with, accept and/or embrace the fact that at the end of the day, no matter how creative or smart, the work simply pushes product to satisfy a bottom line. While our intentions going into a project may be lofty - say, affecting culture or changing behavior - we sometimes run the risk of looking up and realizing that we’re wracked with stress over a brand’s conversion rate.  


Whichever the case may be, we owe it to ourselves to take a few minutes in 2014 to reflect on the meaning we derive from what we do. The beauty is, there’s no right or wrong answer - everyone will have a different definition. 


And should you feel that while you love what you do, it’s not providing that sense of purpose in your life - find it outside of work. Take on a side project that channels what makes you great at your job into something else. It doesn’t have to be charitable, world-altering or require a change in career. Just meaningful.

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