This article first appeared at www.linkedin.com/pulse/long-live-ageism-alistair-mckechnie
A lot of people say Mad Men was unrealistic. Of course it was – just look at how old those creatives were. In reality, creatives seldom survived that long: stress, drugs and drink would have put them in a care home by 35, as the intensively researched chart below shows.*
So it’s hardly surprising that ageism is endemic in the creative professions today: dead people don’t do good creative. (Check out the epitaphs in Islington’s cemeteries if you don’t believe me.)
But keep looking at that chart. You’ll see that once creatives started to read their own award-winning ads about the dangers of drink-driving, cirrhosis, cocaine and fatty food – and began to embrace colonic irrigation and quinoa (possibly not in that order) – things started looking up.
In fact, the chart clearly shows that if I die this year, I will probably be 96 years old. (But then, back when I was facing a 37-year lifespan I had better things to do than sit around in statistics classes.)
The obvious conclusion is that if agencies had any sense they’d stop ejecting copywriters and art directors at the first sign of a grey hair. The fact is that experience means you spend a lot less time diving down dead ends. You question dodgy strategies and briefs before, not after, they send you into a two-week tailspin. And you have a lot more techniques up your sleeve when the going gets tough.
Not that I’m suggesting that mainstream agencies actually hang out the welcome mat for my generation. Their loss has led to a renaissance in B2B creative. While car, beer and soft drink creative continues to hit new lows, B2B brands are breaking out of the traditional ROI-gloop with powerful emotive work.
We’ve always known that a combination of tight budgets and tough briefs gives creativity a clear field. With so many great creatives available, it’s happening more and more.
Volvo Trucks: one of the most powerful campaigns ever and it blows 99% of contemporary car campaigns out of the water. And I very much doubt these guys have peaked.
*If you have any quibbles with my research, blame our very young and poorly paid intern.