How old do you have to be to write an ad? Or be a CD? Or start your own agency?
When I was at Watford the average age of people on the course was 24. Nearly all were post-grads, but some had tried an alternative career and found it not to their liking. That meant that we had sufficient experience of ‘life’ to have a go at briefs and hopefully answer them with a simple human truth. Could an 18-year-old have done that? Probably, but I think they might have found it harder or hit the bullseye less often.
I think the industry shows us that, like many skills, a person’s ability to create ads increases along with the number of times they have to do it. You get to a point where you know what to do, what not to do, what’s been done and what constitutes ‘good’, and when you combine all those it’s bound to trump naivety more often than not.
In the middle of writing this post I started reading this interview with David Cronenberg. He touches on the increase of ability that comes with age:
“You have power and potency at this age. There’s the mythology of age, the bearded elder, the wise old man. In some cultures advanced age is very much revered, the Chinese culture, Confucius and so on: you are supposed to gain in wisdom and experience and therefore be quite a valuable member of society who should be honoured and listened to.
“I can say that the novel I wrote now, I really expected to have written when I was 21 instead of 71, but it couldn’t have been the same novel and I doubt that it would have been as good.”
Reading the above, you might then wonder why you see so few older people in advertising agencies. Well, it’s an industry built on a misguided neophilia, as well as a tightfistedness that lets go of some of its better practitioners because they have risen to a position where their salary is high enough to be questioned, no matter what their contribution.
And what do we lose because of that? Those of you who read the wisdom of Jeremy Bullmore, The Ad Contrarian or Dave Trott will appreciate just how much the less young have to offer. How many others are out there could contribute to the strength of the industry in a similar way?
We’ll never know because those two kids who have just graduated from St Martins know who Deadmau5 is and will only cost £20k each.