Remaining Optimistic in Troubled Times

Is There Something Wrong With 'Rah Rah'?

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Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
Those who know me well, know that I am an optimist. Even in the face of adversity, I feel that I can find some seed of hope that can grow into something good. I believe that I referenced this once before, but I share a similar point of view with Allan Davis of Entercom, Kansas City. In one of our management meetings when he was in Portland, he once said, "I will never apologize for being an optimist."

Recently, I attended the Portland Advertising Federation's annual Rosey Awards (really good show, by the way). I hadn't seen some of these people in close to three or four years, but I was quick to share my thoughts on what we're all facing as an industry. In one exchange, I mentioned how bullish I am for 2009. One of the people in the conversation said, "Wow, you're the first person I've talked to who is optimistic about all of this." Maybe I'm too dim to see it, by why wouldn't we be optimistic?

History has shown us that, when faced with adversity, this industry really can do great things. During Advertising Week, there was talk about how some of the most iconic campaigns in advertising history were launched in tough times. At the ANA conference in Orlando, optimism reigned supreme. In my core industry, radio, there are plenty of us who see an evolving "blank canvas" that can be painted in fresh new colors. We've met people, in more "mature" industries, who are endlessly bullish on the future because technology and new platforms are driving revolutionary ideas on how to communicate with consumers.

We're not blind to the challenges facing all of us. Hell, the automotive industry has been radio's bread and butter for a long time. But if we're focusing on just that, we're ignoring the fact that radio is still a billions-of-dollars-many-times-over industry that has tremendous room to grow. I can only speak for the industry that I'm most closely associated with, but my best guess is that there is plenty opportunity in all industries, media and platforms that are facing similar issues.

Sure, we've been hit by losses because of the economy. But, we've found that it steels our resolve. It could be easy for us to just sit back and wallow in it all, but, by nature, we're bigger fans of "possibilities" (as opposed to the "probabilities" that the economy will shatter us). Over time, it's inevitable that we'll gain and lose clients because of the economic climate but that won't stop us.

It's clear that we're seeing an uber "fight or flight" response to the situation. There is too much talent and opportunity out there to just let it all sink away. In my opinion, it's just going to take continued innovation and expansive risk-taking to see it through to the other end. We're not ready to stand back and let the industry we love be taken away from us without a fight. From what we're hearing, there are plenty of people out there who are ready to lace up the gloves with us and give it a go.

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