Monday, August 7, 2017

How to get old.

I've been in awe of David Fowler for about 30 years. He's the brain and the pen behind one of the great campaigns in advertising history, Tom Bodett for Motel 6 (We'll leave the light on for you.)  

As luck would have it, we're work-neighbors now. My desk is not much more than an axe-length from his.  And as two of the more "seasoned" writers left plying our trade, I suggested writing a short article on aging in the business. In two shakes of a lamb's tail, David had sent me the advice below: Tips for being north of 27.

Aging Creatives:  
Extend what little you have left of your career.  
Ten No-No’s for Elderly Creative People

If you’re north of 55 and still somehow working in an agency creative department there are some simple cloaking mechanisms you can use to delay the shoulder tap from security:  

1. Never have cash.  When the kids hit you up for Skyler’s birthday cake or baby shower, offer to pay with Venmo.  Whipping out real cash in that turquoise money clip from Santa Fe will be like putting a sticky on your forehead reading “Shoot the horse.”

2. No more double spacing. Type the period at the end of a sentence then make one more tap and keep writing. Two spaces after a period leaves a gap that screams “I grew up on the Selectric!” Just go ahead and open the window and tip out.  

3. Bleach your lexicon. Forget “the mechanical”. Never reference twentieth-century electronic terms like “lay it back,” “do a punch here,” or “try a different beat”.  You will sound like an old Martian if you utter shit like “one-lights,” “dailies,” or “film budget.”  Remember “Spray Mount?”  Let the fragrant memory of inhaling aerosol rubber stick in your mind and not spray from your mouth.     

4. Never print a boarding pass.  If you’re travelling with the team, DO NOT be the only one with a paper boarding pass.  Use your phone and hold up the boarding line as the gate agent tries three times to get a good swipe.  That’s the way you roll now!

5.  Never carry a pen.  Why would you need one? You’re tottering on the elevator with a laptop, phone and maybe an IPad, right? That’s three things to write something on, each containing a clock!  A pen is like wearing a watch. Who does that?  Oh, right, old people, like YOU!

6. Wear headphones. I’ve never been able to write listening to music and I don’t know how anybody else can either.  But remember, you’re not writing all that much anymore. You’re watching YouTube, no wait, Snap Stories most of the day. And do not bring the old cans from home you bought in college.  “Dude! My dad has phones like those!” Cancel that kind of noise with a pair of Beats.

7. “I wore those in high school!”  Do not blurt this out when you see a pair of Chucks or Adidas SuperStars.  Do not wear these shoes yourself.  Shoes are tricky.  It’s like you can always tell tourists by their weird shoes.  You can be instantly busted by getting yours wrong. For both men or women a pair of slip-ons might work, like generic wino shoes, but not a branded pair of Vans.  You are not a skater.

8. “You guys watch ________ last night?”  No, no, no! You’ve just admitted you sat in your living room on a sofa watching linear TV on a big TV on a wall.  Living room. Sofa. TV. The dog whistle of antiquity blares on every word. No, they didn’t watch it. Yes, you’re busted doing what Memaw and Papaw do in their free time. Let’s play horseshoes everybody! Then watch “Wheel!”

9. Do not speak of having seen DePeche Mode, Blondie, Adam Ant, Psychedelic Furs or any of their eighties ilk. They’re not even ironic yet.  Ramones? Probably okay, but you’ll need a story about meeting one and that will date you. On the other hand, the seventies acts like Clapton have been gone so long they’ve swung back around like vinyl. But still, risky. The only thing more dangerous than talking about old music is wearing a t-shirt from some World Tour 1985. Pull up! Pull up!

10.  Never, ever talk about “that shoot.”  Every time you recollect TV shoots with Pytka or David Cornell or Peter Smillie (who?) you hit the tripwire. Talking about the glory days when you stayed at “Shutters” or “Casa” is like recollecting the Jurassic. Instead, bandy “we just need it for the Internet” and “we’re shooting in Vancouver to save on talent” and you’ll still have a career for another five minutes, more or less. Then again, you’re not exactly sure because you stopped wearing a watch weeks ago. Right?  

Good luck.  

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