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From the Editor: Weather Report

Different industries handle the unpredictable in their own way.

It is rainy. Not some gentle mist or a pleasant sprinkle. Really coming down in ways The Weather Channel typically presents as apocalyptic. They missed this one.

They say rain is something you can get used to; a Vancouverite once told me she couldn’t sleep soundly without the patter of raindrops against her window. But here in Cincinnati, rain is a scourge, something that creates black sludge from winter snowfalls and muddy boot prints each spring and fall.

The economy is not so different from rain. It can be hard to tell when a mist will become a downpour, and the direction the wind blows can change fortune and favor among various industries. When stocks are up, of course, bonds are down. Low interest rates help first-time homebuyers, but hurt those who expected higher returns on their retirement investments.

Magazines have a tendency to turn everything into news. Show me five photos, and I can pull them together into a convincing trend. Let me read a few articles on the same topic, and I’m on Google looking for more.

So, maybe that’s why, when I look back, I see that many publications began to celebrate the end of the recession as early as 2009. They (we) were technically correct: the National Bureau of Economic Research pointed to an uptick in the summer of 2009 and called off the official recession.

Still, the worrying effects of the dip linger. Career tracks, forever altered, have left a chunk of millennials still living at home, or returning to create what sociologists have dubbed the “boomerang generation.” Employees working into their seventies is no longer uncommon.

There are effects that are harder to measure: job satisfaction, mental health, stress-induced illness. A Gallup study of 2.5 million workplaces in April found that only 30 percent of employees and 35 percent of managers in the US are engaged by their work.

On the other hand, there is a surge in second (and third and fourth) careers, people heading back to school after finding that what pays the bills isn’t satisfying. There’s a movement among younger people to enjoy the perks of retirement a bit sooner. As the job market rebounds, frugal thirty- and forty-somethings are leaving their jobs to travel inexpensively for a year. One former ad executive quit, bought a van, and is meandering through the US.

So, while there have been hardships and derailed careers, there’s also some sense of realism, a better understanding of who we are, what we want. That trickles down to how receptive we are to the many messages we receive in the world, including advertising. “Authenticity” is the new buzzword, and if we prized highly paid jobs in 1985, we’re starting to celebrate highly developed humans in 2015. And we’ve learned that not all development is reflected in a paycheck.

Advertisers have jumped on this bandwagon; check out our cover story on the Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s awards for a sampling of this brave new world.

Read more of our editor-in-chief's monthly musings here.

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