"The greater your dreams, the more terrible your nightmares." - Edward Abbey
I am a strong advocate of nightmares. Dreams are amazing to boost our dopamine levels but I feel nightmares are equally important as they give us a reality check on our dreams. Nightmares, or a sense of paranoia, help us evolve constantly and dream bigger.
At the risk of starting a debate, I strongly believe that if you are sleeping peacefully without any niggling feeling of paranoia, you are limiting your potential.
So here is my list of 'five must-have nightmares in the life of an agency executive.
1. The Ominous Open Letter
Many a time I have woken up in a cold sweat from a nightmare of an open letter administered to me for some campaign we did because it happened to "offend" somebody. We live in a world where every Tarun, Divya and Hari have an opinion on everything, and a platform to make their opinion heard. We also live in a world that it is easily offended by things you do or don't do. So, the need for every creative to be whet by all facets of society so as to not offend anybody and yet land the message for the brand becomes all the more important. Where is the appetite to be risqué you ask? Please talk to my lawyer.
2. The Bots are coming for your job.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that your job as a creative person is irreplaceable by a machine. There are many a debate on the topic of AI and machine learning taking over jobs of people. No matter what side of the debate you are on, it's a definite point to consider. There is this phenomenon of reverse singularity where the development of human intelligence is being slowed down to allow for machines to catch up. While all of this may sound like sci-fi, it's important for agencies to develop the relevant skills that adopt and adapt to technological advancements, in order to be ahead of the game. Else, that visual of an IBM Watson sipping on your favorite malt and writing the script for the next "viral" video isn't very far.
3. Who is this Uncle?
The four most dreaded words after "We need to talk" are "Who is this Uncle/Aunty?" muttered by the young bunch of creative lads after you finish making what you thought was an insightful statement. The world is transforming every day and the need to stay relevant in the space we are in becomes all the more important. It is fine to not know things but it's important to be open to learning about it. Be very paranoid of being stuck in a bubble and getting left behind very soon. I try and keep myself updated as much as I can by reading and talking to relevant people and trying to avoid the "Uncle" tag. Don't know how long I can avoid it.
4. Culture Apocalypse
Culture is probably the most misused word in today's economy. Everybody seems to be shifting it, crafting it, making it and transforming it, but very few seem to be defining it. Culture isn't that foosball table in your oh-so-cool office or the strewn bean bags in the conference room. Culture is People. People who work with you to deliver that cutting-edge creative (*insert adjective here*) campaigns. It's important to handle culture with care because culture can shape your agency. Great culture can bring great creatives, accolades and revenue and bad culture can bring you instant doom. The worrisome bit is that while culture plays a very important role in the company, it also stays hidden and is easily ignored till it surfaces to create mayhem. So, it's very important to keep the culture quotient at the back of your mind when making any important decision, from hiring somebody to picking up a new client.
5. Our Dear Friend Murphy
You know that time when you deploy the best creative team, fly down the top experts from all over the globe and fire up the most powerful servers known to mankind to ensure smooth delivery of a never-before-seen innovation that goes live tomorrow only to see your dreams shot down because somebody managed to drop coffee on the hard disk with all the innovative code to run the campaign. That. Yes, that feeling when you meet the dear Mr. Murphy. Every agency will have its encounter with Murphy, where anything that can go wrong, will. This is one problem that has no other solution, but is a nightmare that can come true anytime. So, prepare to fail fast and move on.
So, the next time you break into a cold sweat in the middle of the night, don't panic. It's probably the side effects of success.
(The author is co-founder and creative chief at The Glitch)