Experienced or ol’ fart?

I don't know when it happened. Did I at some point crawl under the limbo bar entering as a successful ad guy and exiting as an ol' fart? Since I have diagnosed 'Ol' Fartness' as the true pandemic of the business world, I had to give it a lot of thought.

I don’t know when it happened. Did I at some point crawl under the limbo bar entering as a successful ad guy and exiting as an ol’ fart? Since I have diagnosed ‘Ol’ Fartness’ as the true pandemic of the business world, I had to give it a lot of thought.

It can’t just be passion because those who were passionate about their industry still are. However, our diminished tolerance for stupidity is properly labeled ‘Grumpy.’

Maybe it’s our grey hair? But there was a time when it was considered ‘Distinguished’ even ‘Sexy.’ Now, there’s red hair, purple hair even blue hair (which I am considering) but not grey. Wait! That is not totally true, I know some guys with grey hair who have very sexy women on their arms, but the downside is they have to wear a suit and a gaudy diamond ring or Rolex. (I almost wrote Rolodex, which is fine for those who like to be more obvious.)

There are a lot of people with more than 30 years’ experience who, like a cart-horse, have been put directly out to pasture without going through the ‘stud’ farm.

Maybe it happens because we all get tired of battling the young bucks on the client side. Those taught in marketing courses to disagree with their boss at least once a day in order to get noticed. Even at the cost of a great campaign.

Or maybe we get older sooner. Many companies promise every potential client that the most senior people will work on the account/project if they win it. (I think I remember V&B promising one of Terry O’Malley’s earlobes if they got the business.) How dumb is this? Dumb enough to block the little voice that screams: ‘But who is going to mentor the juniors?’

Ahh, the juniors. Unfairly, they may just be today’s replaceable cogs in the wheel. Fire the person making $120,000 and hire four for $30,000 who are so wet behind the ears they come with a towel. They lack experience but they do come with ideas. And they look and talk like ‘today.’ Why they are a big part of our market. They talk in rhyme, have secret handshakes and they wear jeans with ready-made holes in them. (I used to write on my jeans. I wrote phrases like ‘John and Yoko will end all wars.’) Shame on us if we hire young talent and put an expiry date next to their name.

Wait a minute! What if we let the ol’ farts mentor the newcomers and play mother hen? Then the senior folks now doing the work, who will soon be ol’ farts, can keep working on clients’ business. But then there’s the money issue! Let’s block out the thunderous laughter from the clients when asked to help subsidize the ol’ fart’s income. Instead, let’s awaken to the midnight buzz of the summer mosquito or sounds of gnat-killing slaps in southern climes. Damned if they aren’t mostly grey-haired, or no-haired, ol’ farts who want some time for themselves. That could be the answer: Swap days off for salary.

Now I hear the Ol’ Farts screaming: ‘But I can’t afford to take a cut. I got a Mercedes Benz to care for and vet bills for my two Yorkies, not to mention my three golf memberships.’ Oh, shut up! We are in a business that makes the minimum wage look like a vaccination scar. Save or invest it while you can. Two things are guaranteed: Ultimately you’re gonna have to pay someone to change your diaper and you’re gonna need to pay someone to dig the hole.

Of course, all of this assumes you last in the business long enough to become an ol’ fart. If deep down you want to be a rock star or a contestant on Jeopardy, chances are you won’t become an ol’ anything in any business.

Hey, let’s look at the other side of the coin; do clients want to be around someone who looks like their dad? Or (gulp) Granddad?

That came up with my Shrink. (He insists it be capitalized.) I told him that when the Institute of Communications and Advertising held a vote for the 10 Best Canadian TV Ads of all time, three of them were mine (Smarties, Milk Moustache and Heinz ketchup). Yet not one person or client phoned to ask how I did it.

My Shrink leaned forward and said: ‘Of course they didn’t because you are an old fart! Get used to it.’

Gary Gray is a passionate ol’ fart who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Creativity in Advertising. Also awarded Syracuse University’s first Mentor Award for the dozen summers he taught their Master’s Course. His teaching continues at the Ontario College of Art & Design. Gary and Monica Forbes have just celebrated their 47th anniversary with their two daughters, four grandchildren and son-in-law Vic.