Are people past 50 too old for creative jobs?

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.

Great Way to Creatively Collaborate

Whiteboards in CyberSpace

There are so many great ways to develop ideas and collaborate online, it makes you wonder why so many companies, many of them professional communicators and marketers, continue to limit themselves to relatively clumsy communication tools like emails, pdf markups and in-person meetings. But who doesn’t love a white board? And now – wow – you can keep those great ideas, share them and update them — all in one place, accesible at any time — with virtual white boards.  Smartboard gets across the concept with a very clever animation.

See how I used my free Conceptboard for a physician’s
practice management client

Apparantly there exist several to choose from (see Creative Bloq review below). But I was pretty amazed how much I could do with Conceptboard, the one I first encountered through Chrome. Conceptboard is great for visualizing and collaborating on projects and ideas. Everyone’s comments are available for viewing and sharing through a handy comment tool that resembles stickies (you can hide or show). It’s easy to look back at the development of the project, and memorialize changes. You get a generous 50 Mbs for free for starters. Anyone you collaborate has to accept your invitation and their own account, or you can purchase a team account for more seamless integration. The navigation takes a bit of getting used to, but it lets you zoom in or out on various areas: which is great for both seeing the “big picture” and the details together.

Although their audience is designers, the “Top 20” tools Creative Bloq reviews range from whiteboards similar to Conceptboard and Smartboard to project management tools that encompass pretty much everything in a project you need to track. 

The Five Dimensions of Creativity

Who better than a couple of German marketers to come up with a methodology for defining and quantifying creativity in advertising. In a 2013 article for The Harvard Business Review, Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert showed a trained consumer panel over 400 consumer ads from 90 “fast moving” categories to determine if and when creativity matters, in which categories certain types of creativity work best, and the correlation between the price for the creative and its effectiveness.

The creative dimensions included originality, flexibility in ideas, elaboration of details, synthesis of objects usually not related, and artistic value. Not surprisingly, parity products such as soda scored highest for originality; whereas personal care products such as shampoo were more valued for elaboration of differences.  However, sales didn’t always follow the logic. Originality in soda ads had a smaller impact on sales, whereas creativity in selling shavers and detergents boosted sales. Different combinations of these creative dimensions were rated, and originality and elaboration together almost doubled the impact on sales.

And the top scorers for each dimension (on a scale of 1-7) were…


  • Is the ad “out of the ordinary”? 
  • Does it depart from stereotypical thinking? 
  • Is it unique? 

Winner: Coca-Cola “Happiness Factory”


  • Does the ad contain ideas that move from one subject to another? 
  • Does it contain different ideas? 
  • Does it shift from one idea to another? 
Winner: Jacobs Krönung “Time for Chatting”


  • Does the ad contain numerous details? 
  • Does it extend basic ideas and make them more intricate? 
  • Does it contain more details than expected? 

Winner: Ehrmann Yogurt “Strawberry Tongue”


  • Does the ad connect objects that are usually unrelated? 
  • Does it contain unusual connections? 
  • Does it bring unusual items together? 

Winner: Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Squish “Juicy Fruit Ranch”

Artistic Value

  • Is the ad visually or verbally distinctive? 
  • Does it make ideas come to life graphically or verbally? 
  • Is it artistic in its production? 

Winner: Danone Fantasia “Flavor Trip”

I wonder if Germans just really, really like yogurt. As the researchers pointed out, original ads seem to do best when people are familiar with the item/category and creative commercials tupically need a few airings before people “get” them,  But why is it that, at least in the U.S., you see the same ads and promos running over and over again ad nauseum?  Well, that’s a topic for another post.

Medical Terminology

14 Wonderfully Waggish Medical Words

As a copywriter, I love words. Alas, I
am too often tasked with simplifying medical terminology rather than
celebrating it’s complexity. Today, my Dictionary app sent me the
word of the day, scorbutic, an adjective for scurvy. Which led me to
wonder at the plethora (number) of multifarious (diverse) words
physicians must confabulate (discuss). These abstruse (difficult to
understand) words describe conditions both prosaic (common) and
arcane (rare and mysterious).
  • Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis
    – Silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhalation silica dust. Not
    surprisingly, the longest word in the English dictionary is a
    medical term
  • Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia
    – the fear of long words. Pity the poor psychiatrist who has to
    not only pronounce this, but code it for reimbursement
  • Witzelsucht – a set of rare
    neurological symptoms characterized by the patient’s uncontrollable
    tendency to pun, tell inappropriate jokes and pointless or
    irrelevant stories at inconvenient moments. It is associated with
    small lesions of the orbitofrontal cortex.
  • Rhinotillexomania – nose picking
  • Mittelschmerz – pain that
    sometimes occurs with ovulation
  • Formication – a feeling that
    insects or other small creatures are crawling on your skin.
  • Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia –
    an ice-cream headache, or “brain-freeze” in the vernacular
  • Morsicatio buccarum – the bump
    that forms after you bite the inside of your cheek
  • Borborygmi – a growling stomach
  • Onychocryptosis – the Greek term
    for an ingrown toenail
  • Sternutate – to sneeze
  • Horripilation – goose bumps
  • Gustatory rhinitis – a runny
    nose caused by eating spicy food
  • Veisalgia – a hangover
› English › Medicine

Faster Fact Checking

Keeping track of sources is essential for writers, particularly when the subject is within a highly regulated industry such as pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceutical copywriters not only have to understand complex information, but they also have the added challenge of supporting every claim. Keeping track of references, and then formatting them, plus annotating is extremely time consuming. Best case scenario is reference tracking interrupts your writing flow. However, losing a reference, or putting the wrong reference in the wrong place can cost you your job. Luckily, there are some great tools for organizing and formatting medical references that will help save your sanity under tight deadlines.

Instant AMA-style referencing and gathering

RefMe is a free extension you can install in Chrome that gathers your references, lets you annotate references, and add notes. So you can organize your sources and format them in one step. When you’re done you can export your list to Word or Open Office, and re-order them to match your manuscript.

If all you need is to quickly format a reference, check citation generator developed by Mick Schroeder, A pharmacy graduate from Penn turned software designer, Schroeder has developed some awesome online tools for us beleaguered pharmaceutical and medical writers. Citation Generator helps you input from a variety of references–including Pubmed, DOI, ISBN, urls– and automatically formats them to AMA style.

Reference Management Software can speed up the referencing process 

Reference Managers (RMs) functions include:

  • Importing citations from bibliographic databases and websites
  • Gathering metadata from PDF files
  • Organizing citations within the RM database
  • Annotating citations
  • Sharing of the RM database or portions thereof with colleagues
  • Allowing data interchange with other RM products through standard metadata formats (e.g., RIS, BibTeX)
  • Producing formatted citations in a variety of styles
  • Working with word processing software to facilitate in-text citation

Which Reference Management Software is best? 

CiteULike, RefWorks, Mendeley, and Zotero are well known reference management tools within the scientific community. In their comparison of four products, Ithaca College librarians Ron Gilmour and Laura Cobus-Kuo found that RefWorks was overall the most robust of these tools.

But don’t expect to get everything with one tool. According to the authors, Not every reference management tool offers all of these features. Neither RefWorks nor CiteULike, can extract data from PDF files. Generally, online-only tools, such as CiteULike, tend to have poorer integration with word processing software than tools that employ a desktop client.

For those of you who want to dig deeper into comparisons of reference managers, check out these links:

“Citation management software: Features and Futures” (2011)
Overview of citation management software from MIT

Top 10 Google Search Terms for Diseases and Medications in 2014

As the New Year rolls out, one healthcare campaign really garnered a lot of interest — and that was the ALS ice bucket challenge. It was #6 among the top ten most searched terms of 2014. And ALS received $15.6 million in donations in just a few days, compared with $1.8 million in the prior year. The You Tube video garnered over 3 billion views. This underscores the power of a simple yet novel event idea, well timed: if a celebrity can get publicity by doing something painful yet quick, a charity/cause can gain a lot of attention. In fact, ALS was also one of the most highly searched terms — meaning it was the stunt, rather than the prevalence or seriousness of the illness that correlates to fund-raising.

Overall, however, heart disease and lyme disease were the most searched diseases overall:

Harrods Presents: The Land of Make Believe – A Little Christmas Tail

This year Harrods gives us a little “tail” of an insignificant mouse, called on Santa to perform a very small task only he can do. He squeezes through a tiny crevice to tighten a light bulb that turns on all the lights decorating Harrods. The message: the smallest jobs can have the greatest impact. It does say a lot about both customer service and employee attitudes. So it’s a booster both for the employees, many of whom are undoubtedly seasonal, and the public. Read more about the shoot

Sainsbury’s Christmas 2014 Ad

Despite the dehumanizing quality of  a war so brutal it was said to end all wars, on Christmas Eve 1914 a truce was called between the Germans and English. For just one night. Peace. If these warriors could find peace for just one night with their enemies, why can’t we 100 years later? At least let us find peace during this season, with our loved ones, friends, neighbors, co-workers, clients…and most importantly, our selves.