The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


The Beginning Of The End Or The End Of The Beginning?

I cannot believe it is the end of June.

How did that happen so fast?

The problem with the year going so quickly is that so is my mortality.

When you’re in your thirties or forties … hearing someone has died at 73 seems centuries away, but when you’ve just turned 52, it seems like a week.

I’ve written how much turning 50 has affected me before.

From looking wistfully at photos of people who look a bit like my son, albeit much older … through to how much I love my wife … to finally appreciating a good garden … to talking about my career.

The reality is, if you’re still in adland at my age – or probably any industry – you definitely feel you’re approaching the end of your journey.

And you are …

That doesn’t mean you don’t have a shit-ton to offer or that you’re not doing exciting work … the reality is the industry has always valued ‘new’ over experience – or even creativity for that matter – so it’s just how it goes.

However from a pure ego perspective, it can still sting a little … especially when many of the people getting the acclaim have not done anything of note, other than play the self-publicity game very, very well.

Repeatedly shouting their reframed arguments, judgement on others work or modern takes on old behaviours and then – just as you’re about to turn into a bitter bastard – you realise that’s probably what the previous generation of adfolk thought about you and your mouth – and suddenly things look very different.

And as much as that revelation is a metaphorical kick in the face brings, it also is pretty liberating.

Because while it’s nice to be noticed – and there’s some people out there doing things that truly deserve to be because they’re trying to take the possibilities of creativity to new places, from POCC to Ivy Huang at Tencent to Mr Hoon Kim at Gentle Monster [and I know I’m biased given he’s a client of mine] to the usual suspects like Nils etc to name but a few – the reality is not being defined by your job or your title or your employer is far better for your health, happiness and creativity … and yet that is the opposite of what the industry promotes.

Your value is based on your title.
Your talent is linked to who you work for.
Your reputation is decided by how well known you are rather than what you’ve done.

I get it. I felt that way for a time. But it’s also a bit insane.
I cannot tell you how differently people listened to what I said when I was at Wieden than when I was at Cynic, despite that on many occasions, I was saying EXACTLY the same thing. It happens now with Metallica. People who wouldn’t give me the time of day before suddenly think what I spout has value because some heavy metal musicians treat me as their cat litter tray. But the reality is success is as much down to good fortune as it is talent – even though talent is still very important – so to play to what you think someone wants you to be rather than who you actually are only ends up undermining you.

You may not realise that till later, but at one point you’ll look in the mirror and know.

Let’s be honest, turning 52 is pretty pants.

Even more so when you find a photo of yourself at 22.

Yep, that’s really me … from my passport photo.

Hair, youth and serial killer stare.

But at 52 you ache.
You look older than god.
And you’re made to feel the industry you’ve pretty much given your working life to, is trying to leave you behind purely based on your age.

And despite me having so much fun and doing so much exciting stuff with bands, I still adore adland.

I may not like where it is going or what it now values, but it’s given – and continues to give me – so much and I’ll always be grateful for that.

And while my time in the industry is different to what it once was, it still gives me so much … with the latest gift being the realisation their issue with older people is their problem not mine.



Beware. Looks Can Be Deceiving …

A few weeks ago, I walked into our lounge to see Jill watching the very first edition of The Golden Girls. For those of you too young to know what it is, have a look at this ‘best bits’ compilation.

After a couple of minutes, Jill asked me to guess how old the main characters were supposed to be in the show.

Given the name of the program and the style of fashion they were wearing, I suggested in their early to late 60’s.

I was wrong.

Jill told me that the ages were 47,53 and 55.

Or said another way, I was older than one and just a few years behind the others.

Then she hit me with this …

The characters were supposed to be the same age as the women in the reboot of Sex And The City.

To help explain why this news impacted me, have a look at this.

Now we are talking about ‘character age’ not real age … plus the ‘backgrounds’ of each show are about as different as you can get … but still.

Then a few days later, this was posted featuring Dorothy from the Golden Girls and Lisa Rinna from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Again, one is in character and the other is … OK, probably also in character … but the shift in age perception – or presentation of it – is startling.

On one hand there’s something awesome about it.

While I – and society – absolutely don’t want to see me sashaying down the street wearing designer clothes and botox lips … the idea that people in their 50’s don’t have to hide themselves away and can feel they are an active member and contributor to society is awesome.

However by the same token, the thought you may need to match the look and behaviour of people much younger than you, just so you can be ‘validated’ is terrifying.

Now of course women have been facing this situation for centuries, which is why the older I get, the more I realise what a brilliant role model I had in my Mum.

You see she always believed age didn’t defy you, your interest in what was happening in culture did.

It’s why she followed emerging artists in film, music, art, literature and politics.
It’s why she would go to a classical concert as well as watch new comedians.
It’s why she viewed ‘growing old gracefully’ as being interested in what others are interested in rather than extracting yourself from modern life because ‘it was easier that way’.

Now this didn’t mean she always like what she saw and learned – and she most certainly wasn’t going to dress in the latest trends and fashions – but she wanted to contribute to life rather than criticise it simply because it was continually evolving.

Which helps explain why I found the Golden Girls/Sex And The City comparison so amazing.

Because dramatic shift in terms of fashion and looks aside, the reality is ageing – especially for women – hasn’t really evolved at all.

Sure, you may not have to ‘hide yourself away’ as much as you used to, but looks are still the foundation of validity and fashion is still the criteria for relevance.

How utterly fucked is that?

For all the talk of modernity, the reality is not much has changed. In fact, it’s arguably even worse now as there is the illusion it’s actually better.

But it’s not.

White men are still born with inherent advantage.

As a 51 year old, badly dressed man, I still receive incredible benefits.

So don’t let the exposure of older, female actresses sway you from the reality.

Sexism and ageism is alive and well.

It’s something perpetuated by the media and championed by society the world over.

In simple terms, if you have to ‘look’ the part to be seen by others, something is fucked up.

And women have to do that more than men. Fact.

Growing old is enough of a pain in the arse without having to deal with that shit.

Which is why it would be so much better if we valued interest rather than image.

Another thing I need to thank my Mum for.