Here an ad from an agency: We want to strengthen our creative department. We are looking for someone over 40 years of age, married with teenage children, a sociable person who has friends from all walks of life, has taken part in a motor race, spent week in a monastery in the Himalayas, written a play and watched a parent die.
OK, I made this up. But today the advertising industry demands far more than just being able to write a snappy headline or balance a photograph with text. You need to ask yourself if you are up to the task. Why over 40? Well, apart from the fact that most of the client’s customers will be over 40 – and soon most will be over 50 – the new hire needs to be in tune with how this segment feels and what pushes their buttons. This age group have the money to spend (they are the ones buying BMWs). By the way, remember David Ogilvy was 40 before he wrote his first ad.
Bringing up children teaches you to be unselfish. Hopefully, by the time our new employee is 40, he has won enough awards and will now concentrate on the client’s needs, not his creative portfolio. Having family teaches one to work better within a team; writers no longer have a monopoly on ideas. He or she will be more prepared to accept alternative ideas whatever the source.
Teenagers are a pain in the neck to live with, but they keep Mum or Dad in tune with modern developments and helps one avoid asking silly questions like “What’s Pinterest?” in meetings.
Life experience is the well from which we draw our ideas. Fear, excitement, tranquillity are necessary experiences for this new person. Meeting new people and experiencing other cultures stimulates us and gives insights into other’s lives.
Why a playwright? In these days of greater customer engagement, the writer needs to be able to pen believable dialogue.
In the 1950’s the American agency creatives used to write and produce “soap operas”, drama serials sponsored by the detergent companies like Lever Bros. I regretted missing that period in advertising history as it sounded a lot more fun than writing quarter page black and white ads for a trade paper. If you are now in the creative department of an agency or freelancing, you could, in this new era, find yourself writing an on-going story about a brand. You may even find yourself collaborating on a video with consumers who are keen to add creative input. You are free from the restrictions of working on just ads for a television channel or a magazine page. You have new opportunities to stretch yourself which I never had.
Working in so many new areas makes this an exciting but also a much more demanding time for copywriters and art directors. They are forced to address the very core of our business – ideas based on an insight. It’s not new concept but one can no longer hide behind a slick execution.
The agency seeking the new addition obviously expects a lot of its new employee. Take heart that there is one criteria you can be sure to meet, if not now but in the future, that of being over 40!