Aging in Adland-Here’s What Ad Age Missed.

January 30, 2012

See AD AGE, January 30, 2012

I started to hear the complaints from creative people over 45 (!) about ten years ago. “Why don’t they value experience?”, and “I’ll put my portfolio up against any 20-year-old’s.” And, not surprising, their portfolio has 20-year-old work.

The sad truth is that many of these aging creative people are indeed ‘dusty’ – the recruiter’s shorthand for, well, over-the-hill. Somewhere along the line they sat back and surveyed their shelves crammed with awards for tv commercials and print ads and figured they were bullet-proof. They stepped off the train. They blew off the digital explosion as a shallow fly-by-night obsession of green-horns and geeks and were comforted by the assurance it would all blow over, the universe would right itself again. When it did, they’d be waiting to pick up the pieces with their unassailable wisdom and experience. And in the meantime, they’d complain about the unfairness of it all to anyone who’d listen.

There is real unfairness here, and it’s this: it’s hard to distinguish this ‘dusty’ lot from the aging ad veterans who never lost their hunger to stay current, never lost their passion to investigate the new before dismissing it. It’s hard to separate the gray-haired wheat from the chaff in a world where time is measured in seconds and where making a mistake in hiring comes with enormous consequences. It’s much easier to draw a line around age and get on with it. It’s not fair, but there it is.

Don’t Ask Why The Horse Is Blind, Just Load The Cart.
What I see is that those who succeed, without the benefit of their name on the agency door, are those who accept the reality (a BIG first step), and don’t settle for the few minutes they get in an interview situation to prove their worth. The proving ground has to be outside the interview – outside in the industry.

First of all, jump back on the train. This is an unbelievably exciting time in the advertising business; we are back in the frontier unlike any time since the Creative Revolution of the 60s. Get yourself informed by all that’s available out there – subscribe to Mashable, Smart Brief, Amex’s Open Forum….and follow the paths they open up to you. Take advantage of social media, there’s more content uploaded every minute about what’s happening, what’s new, what’s coming than ever before in history. Then grab opportunities – and they’re out there if you look – to get known for what you have to offer: your personal brand of finely honed strategic thinking layered on what you see in this new world. Join industry associations and get yourself known; not just with glad-handing, but with contributing. If you can’t land a seat on a panel, stand up and ask intelligent questions during the Q&A. Go talk to the ad schools and offer to come in and lend your expertise to their classes – remember, the students you impress today will be the industry players of tomorrow. Get yourself in print, on Facebook, Twitter. Write articles, start a blog. Essentially, get back to using the tools that got you successful to begin with: hunger and resourcefulness.

What the Ad Age article got right was this: there is, finally, a new awareness in our business that youth may not have all the answers. But you can’t leverage that awareness by cursing the darkness.

Nor by hoping that next interview will give your the chance to, as Sally Hogshead states it, fascinate. But fascinate you can…and undoubtedly with more finess than any entry-level kid.

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