The headline sort of presents the quandary for me. As I speed through my fifties and now have officially become a grandfather, one can begin to wonder: am I too old for advertising? Nah, I tell myself. I still am a 9-year old boy trapped in a steadily declining (or is expanding a more apt description?) body. And then my grandson came along to do a lot more than just be the most adorable little boy on the planet; he proved to me that old(er) dogs can, in fact, learn new tricks.
Rule #1: Old can be New Again. My daughters say they don’t recognize me anymore. They can only remember their teen years, when it seemed to them that “no” was my reply to any question they asked. (And they are not wrong) Then my grandson came along … and it has been pointed out to me that the word has suddenly seemingly evaporated from my lexicon. The point? Embrace the second chance. My grandson made me realize I didn’t have to do things the way I’ve always done them.
You want to be seen as relevant in our business in spite of your graying hair? Don’t fight the tide and express a stubborn disdain technology. Don’t pine for the “good old days.” Change. Evolve. Show up for client meetings with a laptop rather than a pad and a pen. Dive into the digital and analytics world that did not exist when we started in this business. Learn the language and the practice of digital communications with the same fervor you applied to the “old” approach that got you to where you are today. The reality is, the same qualities that make you a savvy and sought after strategist apply to the New World Order. Just embrace the changes and run with it.
Rule #2: There’s No Substitute for Experience. Yeah, my grandson taught me this one too, at least indirectly. One of the coolest parts of being a grandparent is it generally lays to rest any latent fears you may have that you sucked as a parent. Because you suddenly realize you know more, just from your experiences, than your kids-turned-parents do. It was shocking to see my daughter mysteriously, suddenly look at me like a God again – you know, like she did before she thought she knew everything. It’s intensely gratifying.
This grandchild-inspired phenomena assured me that decades of marketing experience and know-how, strengthened by a warm embrace of all things digital, results in a viable contribution we older ad execs can make to our clients’ success. In other words, being older isn’t the worst thing in the world after all (just as long as you’ve followed Rule 1).
Rule #3: Don’t Treat Millennials as the Enemy. I can’t actually credit my grandson for this one as much as I can infer it from how he makes me feel about everything. His birth gave me a richly renewed appreciation for youth and youthfulness, which in turn has inspired me to finally stop going to the window and making a big show about glaring at the neighborhood kids playing basketball in the cul-de-sac. This is a round-about way of suggesting that to be an effective advertising executive and marketer you have to do more than just tolerate the younger folks; you have to actually understand them and what they want … in the very same way we’ve been trained to do for every other demo our clients may seek to reach.
The bottom line? This digital marketing stuff really isn’t all that scary. Every generation and every role within an organization can learn from one another. We just have to be open and ready to receive the information. Because once you’ve survived raising teenage girls and get to enjoy the privilege of holding your grandchild in your arms, you realize you can conquer anything.