I'm Not Dead Yet

futurelab default header

As any Monty Python fan knows, that’s a line from a very funny scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But, as someone over 50, it’s also occasionally how I feel being in the ad industry. Sure, I once thought that being over 50 meant being close to death, but now that I’ve reached that milestone, well, let’s say I’m hoping that I’m not that close any more.

A few months ago, I was meeting with a friend who’s about my age about and, as people of all ages do, we complained about being past the half-century and what that means for people in the ad industry. I joked about gathering a group of us together to start a new agency called The Nursing Home.

But it really started to gel when Matt Van Hoven wrote A Primer on Social Media and said this: the person who will be good at this is probably no older than 30.

Now, as readers of my site know, I challenge the entire "SM is brand new" argument anyway. Yes, the tools are new, but social media is not. In fact, take a look at this piece from 2001, Pamphleteers and Web Sites. You see, pamphleteers were early social media adopters. In fact, today while we talk about the impact of social media on the world, those pamphleteers helped start a revolution way back in the mid-1700’s, the American Revolution. Try reading 400 Years of Blogging to see additional thoughts on how old this whole social media thing is. As I say:

Those that don’t know history are destined to think that everything they do is new.

The truth is that yes, there are people out there, over 30, who aren’t playing with social media. I have friends that have no listings when you search them at Google and have chosen to "stay off the grid" and make sure that they have no digital footprint. They’re not experimenting with any of the new tools and they’re barely using Facebook or Linkedin. But, when the ad industry was touting Second Life as the savior of advertising, the college students I was teaching weren’t using Second Life at all.

So, to toot my own horn a little:

In the early 90’s:

  1. I was using virtual worlds for brands like Avis and Cutty Sark.
  2. My first published article about advertising in virtual worlds was in ’93.
  3. I had coined the expression experiential advertising to describe advertising vehicles that allow the consumer to enter and interact with a brand message.

In early 2000:

  1. I was talking about the importance of authenticity in connecting with your audience.
  2. I was already talking about location based branding. In fact, it was the name of my company.
  3. I was talking about the importance of oneline and how brands needed to combine the online and the offline into a seamless brand experience.
  4. In 2007, I pioneered the commercial use of group interactivity with the first in-cinema, group games.
  5. I’ve been ahead of the conversation about the Socialization of Place and the intersection of social media and place.

So yes, there are older folks out of touch with the new tools and tactics. But there are also a lot of extremely talented folks over 30 out there, who are not only extremely conversant in new things, but they’ve been playing with new things for years. And that experience let’s us look at the new in addition to understanding the strategic use of new. We’ve dealt with the shiny bauble syndrome and we know how to separate the bauble from the useful.

So sorry Matt, being under 30 doesn’t guarantee that you can be successful at using new tools any more then being over 30 means you’re not good at it. Brands need to find people who can help them and can bring them the expertise they need. If you’re writing people off because they’re over 30, you may be missing the expertise you need.

Image source: slightly-less-random