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In over ten years of keeping this blog, the last two weeks have been the longest time I’ve gone without writing a post. I am not naïve or prideful enough to think that anyone missed me. But to my loyal readers I offer my apologies. I know how annoying it is to arrive at a bookmark and find stale content. I was working on a freelance project, which deserved and received all my attention. Despite undying passion for Gods of Advertising, I enjoy working on outside creative projects even more. Plus, it keeps my family teetering on the brink of solvency.

At any rate, that project has now concluded, very successfully, and I’m ready for another. So, if you’re reading this and in need of copy writing and/or creative leadership please hit me up. I will deliver on time and above expectation. I have never failed in this regard and do not intend to start with you. As always, I will provide the last job I worked as a reference.

That being said…

Regarding the rash of stories about ageism in Adland, especially as it pertains to creative people. I’ve read we are too expensive. Too out of touch. Too ‘a bunch of things.’ The stigma is real. But it’s not based in reality.

A lot of us know as much about emerging digital platforms as our teen-age children. Certainly, we forgot more about coming up with creative business ideas than most anyone in Adland under thirty. And, last but not least, we know how to write a f–king sentence. Intangibles? Put me in front of a client. I’m a professional, who has a lot of fun being one.

I can’t speak for my peers but regarding money I’m no longer obsessed with it. Materialism is just one of the many sins of youth… like chasing prizes. Been there won that. Bottom line: If you want me for a project we’ll do it on your terms. The same goes for potential full time employment, for which my antennae are up. By the way, I believe the appropriate compensation for talent (me or anyone else) must reside in the range of one’s peer group at his or her particular company. One should never be conspicuous on a spreadsheet! Such wisdom comes from experience. Here’s another “old” idea: Do great work for great value and the rest takes care of itself.

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A punch line on Comedy Central…

Over the years, I have been criticized –often justifiably- for being tone deaf to politically correct behavior. At times, I go to far with a “witty” observation. I don’t know when to stop a rant, diatribe or whatever best describes these sorts of things. I’m not pleading ignorance, necessarily; rather I just can’t stop playing with nasty, fun thoughts. If something is genuinely funny I have a hard time deeming it genuinely inappropriate. For me, going too far just means passing beyond the mainstream. Too soon means fresh. I could go on but you get the idea.

Regardless of your point of view, the ‘normal’ world is rapidly becoming more open-minded to bawdiness. Ungodly levels of it. Credit transparent yet anonymous social media as well as rampant competition for your entertainment dollars as two of the many reasons for the “ribaldification” of society.

So, are there lines we should never cross? Taboos? Not if you base your opinion on Comedy Central’s insanely over-the-top Roast of Justin Bieber.

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Race. Sex. Age. Politics. Religion. 9/11. Isis. No stone was left unturned in this 2-hour orgy of insults, hurled by a motley crew of rappers, ballers and comedians. Women were sluts and whores. Black men were pimps and gangsters. Latinos were gardeners and valets. The N-word was dropped dozens of times. As was “retard” and other slang even I won’t print. Said of guest, Martha Stewart: “She hasn’t been with so many black people since she was in prison.” Or that her “pussy was 50 shades of grey.” Behemoth ex-Laker, Shaquille O’Neal’s “dick is so big he uses it as a selfie-stick.”

I think these jokes are freaking hilarious. And so did plenty of you. Bieber’s roast, like all the CC Roasts, got tremendous ratings.

Given the immense popularity of such bacchanalia, I can’t help but wonder about political correctness in general. Is there a time and place for such things or is it hypocritical to think so? I get confused sometimes, which is why I’m called tone deaf. Yet, one cannot tell me that saying the “N-word” is okay here but never anywhere else. Or that anal rape jokes are fine directed at Justin Bieber but unacceptable toward anyone else.

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Justin Bieber. Portrait of a young man as douche bag…

The best argument for such ethics compartmentalization is that it’s fine if we have a choice in the matter. Therefore, racial and sexually demeaning jokes are okay on a cable TV show but not in the workplace.

Justify it all you want but this is a double standard.

And the more work and home converge the grayer this all becomes. For example, if I want to re-tell one of the above-mentioned Comedy Central jokes at work the next day does that mean I am crossing a line? Or worse yet make me a racist-misogynist? A short time ago I was asked by someone at work to take down a Facebook post I’d made regarding the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Too sensitive a topic, I was told. People at work might be offended. Yet it was fair game on Comedy Central, a show these same people likely all watched. What gives?

Final note: Advertising tries desperately to ride the bleeding edge. But generally it is found chasing madly after it. Some of you may remember how Madison Avenue loved exploiting characters from SNL almost as fast as the show cranked them out. In terms of truly avant-garde, advertising is still bound by the typically conservative conventions of its many clients as well as antiquated ethics and suitability laws created for TV networks in the 20th century.


Think he’s too old to create?

Derek Walker, who is “the janitor, secretary and mailroom person for his tiny agency, brown and browner advertising based in Columbia, S.C.,” wrote an entertaining essay this week in AdAge entitled, Ad Agency Dinosaurs Are Not Extinct; We Are Adapting.

Being four decades and change myself, I can appreciate Derek’s take on the Logan’s Run mentality permeating our business. (In the movie everyone turning 30 is killed to preserve society. Or some shit. I forget the details.) Derek paints a picture whereby a “digital asteroid” supposedly kills off all the oldsters in Adland, leaving just twenty-something’s in control. I say ‘supposedly’ because Derek refutes that perception. To the under-thirty, who claim digital superiority, he writes:

“You just can’t see it now. You misjudge how deep our talents and abilities run. You’re too busy laughing and ridiculing us. But understand — please take a moment to grasp — that for my fellow dinosaurs and myself this digital age is no killer asteroid. It is like a new hunting ground has opened up. And the prey is so unaware of how dangerous we are. They don’t even run away anymore. Digital has not destroyed us. It has exposed a whole new hunting ground.”

Like I said, it’s a fun piece. And it’s about time someone wrote it. Save for one or two brave rogues (God bless Bob Greenberg and yes, God bless George Parker), most ad industry folks really do obsess over the topic. Call it Youth in Advertising.

Or, better yet, call it bullshit. This idea that only kids understand –really get- digital is just fucking lame. Look at Hollywood…from behind the cameras. Since the beginning, rich, old fucks have been making films for punk-ass kids and the kids eat it up. Yet, only the actors belong in their peer group. Chances are the creators are 50 plus. No one calls James Cameron a dinosaur. He seems to get the technology thing. And putting aside Sanctum, he knows how to tell a story. Something too many kids in Adland can’t do, or even more unnervingly, won’t.

So, why is ageism so rampant in advertising? My theory: we’ve coveted the 18 to 34 demographic for so long we’ve subconsciously accepted them as our superiors. I myself have romanced the child-like wonder of creation, gleefully calling the creative department Romper Room. But staying in touch with your inner child does not mean you have to be one. They are not our superiors. In fact, in many cases they are vastly inferior. Consider the following:

People under 30 get Asian tattoos on their arms and think it makes them look badass. People under 30 think paying money to see dopes spin records is a concert. People under 30 pay money to see dopes spin records. People under 30 grow beards. Inexplicably. People under 30 make fun of ironic tee shirts yet they wear them anyway. People under 30 think making fun of shit they do makes doing it less stupid. Like wearing ironic tee shirts. Like growing beards. Like getting Asian letters tattooed on their arms. They think comic books are books. They think video games are important. They think that they think. And yes, these same people think they know how to make creative better than we do.


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Well, on behalf of every creative director old enough to remember the Avid (let alone cutting film with a blade), I say Bravo Derek Walker. 40 isn’t the new 30. It just might be better. Um, except for having to get a colonoscopy. That sucks.

Finally, I know people under 30 like to hate anonymously (Man, do I ever), so have at it, boys and girls! Next post back to acting my age. That means less cussing and I can’t use the word “badass.”

Old farts! Damn kids!

Is there a right or wrong age to work in advertising? We often hear it said that advertising is a young person’s game, usually in a sentence with “man” and, if we’re being honest, “white.”

But let’s stick with age. I’ve written about the topic before, on this site and elsewhere. Reactions were many and vigorous. Like any “ism” ageism is controversial, inviting strong opinions. But is it as pernicious as sexism and racism? I wonder. Right now we seem to be getting mixed messages, at least as it relates to our industry. There is a persistent call to remove all “the rich, old farts from big dumb agencies.” These voices get pretty loud and angry. Shame. Because when they’re not obscene, they actually make good points. Are our leaders out of touch? Do they still think in last century paradigms? Men of a certain age… Are we passé?

However, many of these same harsh voices also criticize the younger members of our tribes, calling them sophomoric and juvenile. They ask: What happened to craftsmanship? Cannot anybody tell a coherent story anymore? The creative department has become a den of hooligans, fan boys and twits.  The so-called “frat boys” at Crispin Porter & Bogusky are good examples. Are they great or are they are scum? Most certainly they are young.

So which it –an old boys network or a frat house?

Either way, the debate gets ugly. Of course, neither side is right or, for that matter, wrong. What’s odd, however, is that many industry critics seem to be talking out both sides of their mouths. It’s ‘out with the old’ one day and ‘stupid kids what do they know?’ the next. I guess only people between the ages of 25 and 35 are suitable for employment. Everyone else get lost.

Well documented are African and Native American tribes who value the wisdom and experience of their elders. Alas, many tribes don’t, particularly in the modern world. Particularly in advertising. We are a youth culture. Being young and beautiful has become a skill set. Strength is appreciated over wisdom.

The animal kingdom calls this the circle of life. Survival of the fittest. Changing of the guard. Nature is rife with examples. The top dog always has other aggressive, younger dogs nipping at his heals. A pride of lions can only have one king. Eventually, a new sire emerges. It is not a pretty process.

Civilized society is supposed to be above all that…

Here’s what I want from my agency workforce: wily veterans and feisty colts. If both groups remain teachable (to one another and to the outside world) the tribe thrives. Good leaders, then, are hybrids. I like to think of myself as a feisty veteran! How about you?

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Last week my piece on ageism created a small furor in Ad Land. It was not unexpected. I knew the topic was radioactive and, therefore, the perfect subject for Gods of Advertising. When Talent Zoo picked up the story the message boards lit up.

Fact. We are all going to die. And before that we will get old. What’s contentious for many is the idea that getting old precludes getting ahead in advertising.

I wrote that I fight the ageing process, in part, because I don’t want to “lose” my job. I’d like to amend that comment: I fight the aging process because I “love” my job. Maybe love is the better “L” word; it removes the unhealthy fear from our discourse. Fear is a cancer in any creative department.

Let me introduce a phrase I’ve had in my head for years but seldom articulate at work. It is not a part of our agency’s credentials or rhetoric. But maybe it should be.

I give you the “Creative Athlete.” A bit of an eye-roller, I know. But before the haters crawl out from under their Macs, here me out…

The Creative Athlete gets her best ideas not in the shower but in the gym. She likens nailing a tag line to hitting a three-pointer. The Creative Athlete wants to score points. She is part of a team that plays to win. She gets off on winning. And the quickest way for the Creative Athlete to become successful is by helping her clients become successful. She is excited by ideas that sell. They are plays that work.

Do we not regularly compete for business? It’s called a “pitch” for a reason. These are tournaments. Each agency fields a “team” and goes up against their competitive set. Recall the storied rivalry of DDB and Leo Burnett. A true cross-town classic. More recent has been the domination of CP&B. Are they not like a Florida farm team that came out of nowhere, stunning the pride of New York and schooling the best in the west?

And what about “underdogs” and “dark horses?” My agency was one. When we got here, the local press called Euro RSCG Chicago a corpse. Now not so much. The boo-birds gave us fire, something to prove. We came back from extinction by competing and losing and eventually winning -first in the minor leagues (with small projects) and then in the bigs, adding Anheuser Busch, Barton Brands, Circuit City, and Valspar to our roster.

I like to ask prospective clients to imagine their brands as football teams. Are you the Fighting Irish or Fresno State? What are your colors? What is your mascot? Do you even have one? Questions like that. As creative partners we can help them field a better team. By improving their jerseys, giving them a fight song, creating a fan base. When we kick off a new campaign the game begins. By the 4th quarter we better have results.

As I said in the previous post, I’m a big believer in the axiom: ‘Use it or lose it.’ Working out our creative muscles is key to staying healthy. A writer writes. Books, scripts, poems, blogs. Not just copy. I also recommend every copywriter read as much as she can, and not just copy. Books, scripts, poems, blogs. Take part in your culture’s conversation. It never stops. And neither should you. Art directors pick up a paintbrush or camera. And you’d better know your way around photo shop.

Sports metaphors are nothing new. But keeping the head and body in shape in order to excel in the ad game is. It’s a youthful approach to our business that diffuses political correctness, allowing talent to shine no matter its color or sex. But creative athleticism is no panacea for age. Quite the contrary. After years in our “league” the creative person either becomes coach or manager or is cut.

Wins. Losses. Ads sold. Awards. The Creative Athlete has nowhere to hide if he’s under-performing. Of course, as in sports, a lot of over-rated managers keep landing jobs no matter their records…another reason for aspiring to management.

Spring is in the air. Is it in your step? Play ball!