05/03/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Taking Back Time

I'm here in San Francisco at day two of the 4A's Transformation 2010 conference, and most of the speakers here agree -- this is the best time to be in the marketing industry. Why? Because technology has enabled a whole new kind of creativity and innovation, the potential of which has only begun to be explored. This was certainly apparent when watching Dr. Frank Rijsberman, Program Director of, who demonstrated how insight from data can be brought to bear with life saving results in Haiti and other nations in need. But this epic industry opportunity also comes with a big caveat... if we don't act fast and we don't do the right things, we will miss big. Well, how hard can that be? What are the right things? According to a range of speakers from Yahoo! to Time Inc. to various advertising agencies and client organizations such as Unilever and Kodak, the right things are as follows: don't be in digital denial, deliver engagement, empathy, enthusiasm, energy, enriching experiences, engaging experiences, immersive experiences, personalized experiences, educate, evangelize, execute, build trust, act with integrity, deliver ROI, create new organizational structures, hire and cultivate better talent, have purpose, be fearless, persuade, influence, perform, leverage technology, forge partnerships and gasp - do it all NOW before it's too late!

Quite a list. And quite a challenge. So the big question then becomes... how do we get all of this done?

Arianna Huffington had one surprising answer for the audience in her speech -- get more sleep. After all, isn't that the most immersive and engaging experience of all?

Her point was that we would be much more equipped to tackle this insanely long list if at least we were rested. Yet as a society, we glorify sleeplessness. Strangely enough, sleeplessness has become a modern sign of virility. The less you get, the more super human you are. Every CEO interview or profile starts with what time they get up, usually 4:30 or 5am, so that they can squeeze in a six mile run and burn through six newspapers before heading to work. And then they don't wind down until after 11pm. You do the math. That's not a lot of recovery time. And we wonder why we need a Transformation Conference to jump-start our thinking?

This got me thinking that sleeplessness is definitely an enemy, but perhaps there is an even bigger one that is interrupting us from capitalizing on the potential of our companies and our industry. Isn't the real enemy time? Time to think, time to dream, time to create, time to turn thoughts into things, time to transform everything.

With our 24/7 world and our increasingly long to-do lists, aren't we headed for another kind of bubble? This acceleration of time robbing cannot go on unchecked forever. At some point, the time-bubble has to burst. I suggest we don't wait for that point -- the point where we are so burned out that we can't take risks, experiment and try things -- because we simply don't have time. What if, instead, we took this amazingly creative industry and put our minds together to solve the one enemy that is preventing us all from moving things forward? What if our first goal was to take back time? To solve the time crunch once and for all. And to start having time to think again. Surely we can apply all of our energy, enthusiasm, creativity, skills, partnerships and resources to solve the mother of all enemies. Because it's the first step in claiming what is rightfully ours. A truly bright future for ourselves and our industry. Who wants to join the mission?