COMING UP WITH A GOOD IDEA is hard, but it’s not that hard. What’s harder is coming up with ideas on demand and on time. What’s really hard is bringing your ideas to smart, elegant life in the real world.

My guess is Mr. Edison wasn’t the first genius to look into the darkness and see the need for light, but creating a working light bulb—that was a world-changing achievement. It’s said that he and his team developed and studied more than 3,000 approaches before landing on one that worked. That’s 3,000 failures on the way to one success.

Advertising isn’t quite that brutal, but sometimes we talk about it as if it is. Like other businesses that aren’t nearly as macho as they pretend to be (Wall Street!), the ad business talks of war rooms, concepts that are killed, and bloody battles between creatives and suits.

It’s silly, especially when you consider that there are actually two different and engaging ways to find joy in this business of advertising.

The first is to be part of a team that produces strategies and creative work that are, to borrow a phrase from Steve Jobs, “insanely great.” Like entertainment, the arts, product design, cooking, and surgery, advertising is one of those businesses that gives its practitioners an occasional opportunity to do something marvelous. That marvelous something might inspire laughs or smiles or thoughts or even action. It probably won’t change the world, but it could make at least a little dent. It could make the world a little more ...

Get Hey Whipple Squeeze This! By Luke Sullivan: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads, Fourth Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.