Tree of 40 Fruits

You know the truism, “advertising is a young person’s business.” In talking with an old colleague, a talented A.D. who started at Y&R, we were wondering if maybe we’ve gotten too old for advertising. We’re both feeling as creative, if not more so, than when we were younger. Yet, as freelancers, we’re finding assignments to be less satisfying. 
Personally, when my fledglings flew the coop my creativity began flowing like when I was 25. Only it’s better now, since I discern good ideas faster and have the confidence to explore them. 

Contrary to popular opinion, instead of getting duller in midlife, we actually become brighter. Indeed, there is proof that in mid-life our creativity really blossoms.  In NextAvenue, “Why We’re Hardwired for Midlife Reinvention,” Author and Journalist Mark Walton discusses what he learned from Dr. Michael Merzenich, a professor emeritus neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and a pioneer in the field of brain plasticity. 

According to Dr. Merzenich “One of the interesting things that we commonly see when people transform themselves later in life is that they’re not just doing a new thing at a more or less mundane level,” Merzenich added. “We see that they have found what they’re really meant to do in life and suddenly move into the domain they were really constructed for.”

Well, be sure you’ve constructed a lucrative career in advertising before you’ve turned 40, so you can get out and do something really creative when you’re approaching 50. 

Out of the mouths of babes?

Ironically, or perhaps prophetically, DDB Europe just this month sponsored a Golden Drum competition inviting young creatives to enter a short slide presentation about ageism. Winners receive an Applewatch and free admission to the 2015 Golden Drum Awards.  According to the  website’s creative brief, The 2015 Challenge:Ageism: “People start vanishing from advertising already in their higher middle age. Unless you don´t mind thinking about a different career after only 10–15 years, it’s time to stop it. Advertising is a young industry. According to IPA (Institute for Practitioners in Advertising) average age of people working in advertising in Britain is 33.6 years. Other European markets often lack the data, but countries established after the fall of the ‘iron curtain’, are likely to have an even lower average. Most people in advertising are under 30 or in their thirties…” Oh, and by the way, you have to be born after 1985 in order to enter. 

The fault is not in our stars…

As Millenials (those ages 20-34) grow to becoming half of the work force, Boomers need to understand why and how “they can’t be like we were, perfect in every way”, according to another interesting article in NextAvenue, “Boomers and Millenials Trash Each Other.” 
The difficulty boomers may find in working the younger generation, the Millenials who with 2-5 years experience, are now starting to run the show, may be less about creativity and more about a cultural generation gap. In several surveys, the problem isn’t so much about skills as about differences in attitudes. Although many boomers may be feeling 25 inside, they grew up in a much different world. Apparantly both take a lot of pride in their generation and blame the others for workplace flaws. 

The Gen Y folks see Baby Boomers as being overly critical, micro-managing, work too many hours and are not good team players. It’s important to bear in mind that Boomers entered the workforce with the idea that one could work hard, prove their worth and loyalty, and thus move up the ranks within a company. The millenials entered a much different world, and are much more likely to move up by switching jobs

I find it useful to think even further back to the differences in our childhoods. Millenials learned team sports: in organized ways, from an early age, where they got lots of recognition for small acheivements. Boomers socialized informally, in pick-up games, where they made up the rules, fought and played and had to compete as individuals to succeed.  And when boomers wonder why they don’t respect us as we respected our parents: Boomers grew up in the definitive Youth Culture and a cultural revolution that celebrated sex, drugs and rock and roll. We offered them reason over faith, we let them call us by our first names, and more than half of us got divorced.
In working with Millenials, Boomers need to be aware and accepting of their parenting styles and that those styles produced the Millenials — and they’re not your children anymore — indeed, they could be your boss. One thing both Boomers and Millenials agree on: Millenials are much more tech-saavy. So in this brave new world of fewer jobs and an increasing dependence on technology tools, Boomers need to reflect on their youth — both internally and externally. And they need to continually raise their skills to avoid being seen as anachronisms.
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