Unless you’re lucky enough to be a CEO, advertising is a notoriously difficult industry to thrive in past the age of 50. Many veteran creatives increasingly find themselves edged out in favor of fresher, more affordable talent.
But Mark Monteiro has a different story—one that’s not about getting demoted, pushed out or laid off. Approaching the “older” end of the age spectrum for the ad industry did present the former chairman and chief creative officer of DDB Los Angeles with a challenge, but not a career-ending one.
Monteiro, now 60, noticed as he scrolled through his Facebook feed that many friends were expressing dismay over how youth-focused the industry is and how tough it is to get a job these days. Rather than vent via social media, Monteiro found an opportunity to continue his career on his own terms, while still offering an agency access to his talents and experience gained over the years with clients such as Volkswagen, Wells Fargo and Budweiser.
“There are so many [creatives] who are unwilling to check their ego. They are still living in 1980,” Monteiro said. “They come back and want to live in the past, but it’s just a completely different world out there right now.”
Eight years ago Monteiro was in touch with longtime friend and industry leader David Angelo, founder of agency David&Goliath. Monteiro was on his way out of DDB L.A. The two got to talking and came up with an idea. Monteiro called it a “calling card for creativity” where he would pony up a block of his time to the agency—in Monteiro’s case, it’s 100 days a year—and load them onto a “metaphorical calling card,” according to the agency.
Going on eight years now, Monteiro has worked 100 days a year for David&Goliath, under founder David Angelo. His title? Monteiro serves as “co-pilot” at D&G. “We didn’t want to call me a creative director because there were just logistical, hierarchical problems with it. Co-pilot was a perfect fit,” Monteiro explained.
What exactly does an agency co-pilot do?
As a co-pilot, Monteiro is, in some respects, an extra set of hands for agency chief Angelo. The inspiration for naming his role co-pilot came from, you guessed it, actual aviation. When the pilot gets up to use the bathroom, the co-pilot can take over for a period of time and keeps the plane flying without disturbance to passengers on board. When there’s turbulence the co-pilot assists the pilot, making the journey as manageable and as smooth as possible.
“I was looking for someone that I could entrust the agency to when I was out or someone to help with pitches that had really great experience and that I would love working with,” Angelo said.
When Monteiro started his first round of 100 days at the agency—which can be spread throughout the year, a few days here and few weeks there—he was focused mostly on new business, dropping in for four to six weeks at a time. In fact, early on in his role as a co-pilot at D&G, Monteiro helped Angelo and company come up with an idea to win the California Lottery account. He also helped score Carl’s Jr. and Jack in the Box.
Later, the role shifted into more creative work. He helped with everything from Super Bowl spots to a sticker for a burrito wrapper, “to tell people not to put them in the microwave because they’ll blow up,” Monteiro joked.
Sometimes, he noted, people aren’t sure how to approach him in the agency and can feel awkward giving him–someone with so much experience–a task like creating a sticker, but Monteiro doesn’t mind at all.
“The ego is long gone in this business. That’s a fun assignment for me, anything can be a fun assignment because I’m not trying to get to ant specific career point and I think that’s an advantage. Because I’m trying a little less hard, I’m achieving a little more,” he said.
That doesn’t mean Monteiro hasn’t done some massive campaigns in his time at D&G. For Jack in the Box, he helped come up with a Facebook Live campaign for the brand, “Jack’s Brewhouse.” In the live video, Jack in the Box debuted its new brewhouse bacon burger to an audience of over 21,000 viewers. Monteiro also lent his creative skills to a California Lottery holiday scratchers campaign in 2014, “When You Give, You Win,” that tugs at the heartstrings.
Last year he produced five TV spots and a big chunk of the integrated work that went with them. One of those spots was Kia’s 2017 Super Bowl ad,, “Hero’s Journey,” starring Melissa McCarthy. Monteiro created that one in partnership with D&G executive creative director Ben Purcell. It eventually went on to win USA Today’s Ad Meter for the top Super Bowl spot of the year.
“That was one of my most productive years ever, and the Super Bowl as the cherry on top was amazing,” he said.
The arrangement of 100 work days spread over a year works perfectly for Monteiro and allows him to be as productive as he needs and wants to be.
“I often use the analogy of a baseball pitcher. I can’t pitch a full game anymore, but for three innings I can bring the heat,” he said. It also keeps clients happy when he lends his expertise to work.”Clients always ask, ‘Is Mark going to be on this? Has he used up his days yet?'” Angelo said.
Going back to the beginning
So how did this all come to be? How did Monteiro score himself such a great gig, working 100 days a year, while David&Goliath snagged one of the industry’s most veteran creatives?
Like most great ad partnerships, it’s a connection that goes back decades. The two first met nearly 30 years ago, working on opposite coasts for DDB—Angelo as an art director at DDB New York and Monteiro as an associate creative director at DDB Los Angeles. Angelo, a Bay Area native, moved across the country for his art director gig in New York and was feeling homesick for the West Coast when his creative director told him a DDB LA creative was headed over to help the team pitch Volkswagen. That creative turned out to be Monteiro.
“I was so excited [to meet Mark] because I could commiserate with somebody else from California. I hugged him. I couldn’t let him go because for the most part I felt sort of isolated. From that moment, we just became really good friends,” Angelo said.
That was in 1989. Form there the relationship only grew. The two also decided they wanted to work more closely together at some point in the future. They had a great chemistry—two totally different personalities that were seemingly the perfect fit together, a yin to the other’s yang.
Both Monteiro and Angelo agree that their differences, that yin and yang of personalities, is perhaps what makes the co-pilot role work so well. “There’s also a level of trust and continuity because I’ve known him for so long,” Angelo said.
The keys to success
For all the talk about problems with ageism in the business and the industry’s obsession with youth culture and millennials, Monteiro and Angelo argue both agencies and people over the age of 50 have an equal part to play in this fight against ageism. Just because people approach the age of 60, that doesn’t mean they become any less creative. Creatives, they argue, need to remember that.
“People in their 50s and 60s need to look at this as an opportunity instead of looking at it as a challenge or obstacle,” Angelo said. “Look at it as an opportunity to not only stay relevant in the business, but also deliver even greater value than somebody who has only been in the business for a few years.”
That being said, agencies also need to change the way they think about an older generation of workers–the experience they bring, the skills they can pass on to younger employees, the connections they have. For D&G, the agency found a solution that worked for both the agency and for Monteiro
Added Monteiro: “I believe it could potentially work at other agencies, but I think again the point is really for the person to try to figure out in their mind what their skill set is, what unique thing they can bring to the table and package a couple of ideas. You can’t just go in saying, ‘Here’s what would be good for me.’ You have to go in thinking, ‘What would be good for the agency?”