You Must Be This Tall to Ride This Ride

Do You Find Advertising Industry Terrifying or Exhilarating?

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Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland
I like roller coasters. In today's economy that's a good thing.

I once saw a documentary about fear and elation. It contained a scientific experiment studying two types of people, sitting side by side, riding roller coasters. They were either petrified or elated by the experience. Those terrified literally feared for their lives. Those elated felt more alive and free.

Since advertising is a roller coaster, I wondered if the same responses of elation or fear were present in our industry. Looking back, I think it's true. I've known a number of people who were excellent, but the ride just wasn't fun. They got off and never came back. Others seemed to take the steep drops with an attitude that built resolve. They found a way to take lemons and make lemonade, overcome the obstacles that most use as excuses to fail and do work that changed the industry for the better.

In the documentary, they explained that the people who were terrified were physiologically different than those who loved every crazy moment. The difference was chemical. A chemical in the body of the roller-coaster lover created feelings of elation. It literally created sensations of pleasure. The scientists doing the test also tested jet pilots and other people with extreme jobs and found they also had this chemical high.

Perhaps some who are long-timers in advertising have a similar chemistry makeup, but I think there is a simpler answer: optimism. As difficult as it is to do our best in this business, there are those who get a thrill over taking on the challenge. Defeat after defeat does not dissuade them. In essence, they enjoy the ride (no pun intended).

Hopefully by now you are considering which side of the roller coaster car you sit. Will free-falls, dips, jerks and twists turn your stomach and send you to the exit? Or will you raise your hands and feel the elation of a near-death experience? As I said, I don't think it depends on a chemical that stress produces in your body, but an attitude.

I don't like the level of work my agency is doing right now. That doesn't mean I feel down about it. It creates a target –a goal with purpose. My partners and I aren't satisfied with being a little agency that makes a decent living. We want to stretch ourselves, our employees to do work beyond our expectations. We want to make our clients successful beyond their wildest dreams by doing work that only happens when you ride the scary ride.

Are you thinking about advertising as a grind? Do you dread going to work and doing it every day? Before you get off and head for the exit, try raising your hands one more time. Let out a scream of elation as you hurdle toward the earth. Maybe it will get the juices flowing and that little chemical we call inspiration will make you glad you went for another round.

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