The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Age Is Attitude …

I’m old.

In fact by adland rules, I’m a bloody dinosaur.

That’s not because I’m switched off to contemporary culture – quite the opposite – but because the industry is ageist to the core.

The reality is anyone at my age tends to face an interesting dilemma in terms of how they are perceived …

Be old but think young and the industry sees you as a try-hard.

Be old and act old and the industry sees you as past-it.

Both things are wrong of course and it’s one of the reasons I always loved Wieden because they valued creativity rather than devaluing age. Of course, you have to keep the flow of new, exciting, dangerous talent coming into the place … but in my experience, when people have an open mind, the young learn from the old and vice versa and the end result is something even more potent than it would have otherwise been.

But maybe that’s just me trying to post rationalise my value.

The thing is, as I get older, I don’t want to subscribe to the ‘life’ I am supposed to have.

That doesn’t mean I aspire to living a long-term midlife crisis any more than I want to spend my time gardening, drinking wine or playing golf … if people want to do that, that’s fine, but I want to indulge in the things that continue to fascinate, intrigue and challenge me.

I wrote about this once before, but the best and worst thing about growing older is that you are continually discovering things you want to explore – in fact, the more you explore, the more you discover additional things you want to explore – but underpinning all this is the unshakable knowledge the time you have to do it is more limited than ever and so there will be paths that will be unexplored.

That’s quite the mindfuck.

Years ago a man I met said, “you know you’re getting old when you can’t feasibly double your age”.

At the time I remember laughing but now I’m in that situation, it’s confronting.

I have so much I want to do. See. Try. Explore.

Then there’s the things like seeing my son forge his own path.

While spending more time with my beloved wife.

More memories. Less dreams.

The idea that time is getting shorter can really fuck you up.

And that’s why for me, it’s about trying to ensure my family life a life of fulfillment.

I don’t want to subscribe to irrelevance.

Sure, one day I might be regarded as that for companies, but this is not about them – but me.

My Mum always had a desire live at the speed of contemporary culture.

She didn’t want to feel she was left behind.

That didn’t mean she did things she didn’t want to do, but she also didn’t want to live in a bubble where her context for life was far removed from the realities of life so she was open to the new and actively explored it … not in the bullshit way advertising portrays it, but in her interest in culture, from comedians and artists to music and politics.

That’s an amazing lesson to be taught – one I wholly subscribe to – which is why I think the industry is missing the point when it labels people over 40 as over-the hill. For me, rather than judge individuals by their physical; age, they should judge them by what they bring … what they challenge … what they change … because it’s the one’s who refuse to be labelled who can make exciting things happen.

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19 Comments so far
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How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?

Comment by hanspostcard

I think you are missing the point of this post.

Comment by George

If you saw what Rob wears you’d know he is an adult that doesn’t know his proper age.

Comment by DH

Excellent post Robert and not something unique to those in the ad industry. The interesting twist is that in the old days, the reason agencies favored the young was because they were cheaper than those with experience. But now we are seeing demands of relatively junior people outstripping salary bands and so more experienced individuals can actually start to look better value for money. If the ad industry had maintained their aura of creativity and adventure this may have been avoided but few have. Did you not write something about this?

Comment by George

Really?
I agree salary expectations for people with 2-5 years experience are out of control but I don’t see agencies valuing 10-20 year experience any higher than they have previously. Unless you’re an MD or Rob Campbell.

Comment by DH

keeping your job in adland over the age of 40 is down to your talent in blagging. anyone with real talent fucks off and does something worthwhile. like learning how to blag.

Comment by andy@cynic

The last 2 paragraphs of this post are very good. Thanks to your Mum as usual.

Comment by DH

always his mum.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s very rare I agree with you Dave but I do on this.

Comment by Pete

If you “are continually discovering things you want to explore” how come you still listen to the same old music?

Comment by John

discovering doesnt mean preferring which in no way is meant to be a fucking compliment to campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

I should hope not.

Comment by John

just keeping you real doddsy. ill send my fucking huge management fee invoice shortly.

Comment by andy@cynic

i wish you had more fucking dreams than memories. it would have saved me a fuckload of cash and embarrassment.

Comment by andy@cynic

Companies devaluing experience is as shortsighted as people with experience believing their daily presence is enough of a business contribution. Well said Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

What do you mean by thinking old or young? I’m guessing it involves being open to new ideas, but would challenge whether that is a generational thing.

Haven’t you had peers throughout your career who have always thought in one or other manner and have not changed as they aged?

Sorrell cites Meeker – hardly surprising given he’s an accountant – but does that mean he’s being futuristic and thinking young or just grabbing the highest profile overview rather than doing his own research?

Comment by John

What I mean is that as you get older you retain a youthful outlook to what is around you. I don’t mean this in terms of acting like you are young (that’s a midlife crisis) but continually being open to what is happening in culture rather than writing it off simply because it’s different. The reason I do think there is a generational element is that quite simple, as you get older, many people close off to things outside their comfort zone – either because they don’t feel they need to see a new expression of what they think they know or don’t want to be confused by embracing something they don’t know.

Again, not everyone is like this, but in my experience I’ve seen it being more often adopted than not, hence I regard my Mum as being a wonderful role model for what I too value … even if many companies tend to overlook attitude and simply judge people by their age.

Comment by Rob

I think there are interested and disinterested people and they very rarely transform. We don’t notice this in earlier life because we’re less self-aware and are more exposed to new stuff than at any other time in life. But if we look back at any individual we see the interest or disinterest was there all along. And I think parental influence might have a lot to do with that.

Comment by John

[…] talked about how stupid the industry is to look at people like that – but when someone old is ranting, it sounds much more like someone trying to keep his career […]

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