Advertising: Bring Back the ‘Geezers’

Advertising doesn’t actually kill those valuable geese as Marty Orzio stated in “The Golden Egg” [A&C, Oct. 15]; it just refuses to hire them when they become geezers. How many CDs are there over 50—who also don’t have their name on the door?

Big agencies once had excellent training programs that nurtured raw talent and gave it the chance to learn the craft and skills of advertising. (I was the beneficiary of Campbell-Ewald’s program in the late ’60s, going from a traffic gopher to a trainee writer.) As you worked your way up the ladder—or from agency to agency—there were always seniors willing to teach the juniors how the business and systems worked.

A creative department usually had a range of ages and talent available, some on the way up, some on the way to retirement. But age was respected then as having valuable experience which could be passed on to the newcomers.

By the end of the 1980s those programs and that attitude were pretty much gone. Management decided to let schools like Art Center do the job instead. The result was a generation of very talented people who don’t know how to manage. They were creative commanders, not leaders.

And by the mid-’90s management started to fire old and hire young almost exclusively.

Today, over 50 in advertising is considered old, slow and expensive. Younger is cheaper, except for a few creative stars. And it is cheaper still to raid the competition for those few than to train your own future creative managers. Let somebody else pay for development.

Yet the real price paid is today’s lack of trained creative leadership. While other industries have realized the wealth of knowledge and talent to be found in the middle-management class they once downsized, advertising sticks to the quack’s dream that somehow giving someone a job means the same as giving them the skill to do it. Their golden eggs are only fool’s gold.

Tom Cammarata
Principal, creative director
Coyote Hill Creative
Middletown, Calif.