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September 13, 2012
Ad-Verse Reactions: The Old Guy at the Club
“Every man has to settle down eventually. You know why you gotta settle down eventually? Because you don't want to be the old guy in the club. You know what I'm talking about. Every club you go into, there's always some old guy. He ain't really old, just a little too old to be in the club.” —Chris Rock
Summer is ending, and with it — my youth.
I’m closer to 50 than 25. And in my head, I’ll always be a silly dorky 19-year-old. But that balding/graying head of mine is mega-revealing.
What brought on this mini-crisis? Our summer interns are going back to school, taking their not-of-legal-drinking-age selves back from whence they came. And recently, I’ve been working a lot with a couple 25-year-old art directors who are easily 162% cooler than I ever was.
It Used to Be Me
For the first decade of my career, I was either the youngest or among the youngest employee at whichever agency was lucky enough to pay me money for my words.
I’d be asking “Where are we going?” on a Friday afternoon when most of my elders were headed home to spouses, kids, and other seemingly tedious things. Sure, maybe one or two would hang for a beer in the conference room or head to a local watering hole (that means “bar” for you whippersnappers out there).
But my youth had cache. I was King of Pop Culture. The Gen X Genius. My coworkers relied on me to know what was “in” and what was “lame.” It was great.
Until us Gen X “slackers” gave way to the future.
Life in Fast-Forward
I hit the Big 3-0. I met the woman who would become my wife. We relocated 1,500 miles for my new job. We settled in and had our kids. Now I’m on the cusp of the even bigger 4-0. And I’m actually one of the oldest at the agency, which is incredibly weird.
Do the younger people see me as a wannabe, clinging to his youth while his hair count gets smaller and his midsection gets bigger?
Can I get away with T-shirts emblazoned with witticisms? Am I supposed to try to squeeze into “skinny jeans"?
If I start saying “When I was your age,” should I stop and punch myself in the throat?
So Now What?
I guess I need to embrace the situation.
I have valuable experience. I’ve worked with major brands in a variety of industries. I’ve lived and worked in four different states. I’ve been criticized and praised. I remember big “job jackets” and mechanicals. But I love my company-issued laptop (from that certain company that starts with an A) and still get a kick out of flash drives that hold 16GB.
I’m going to try to think of myself as a hybrid. Someone who came up through the “old school” ways but has his other foot firmly planted in the new world. After all, advertising may have taken many new forms, but the ultimate goal is still the same: sell sell sell.
Hopefully, when I wear my “Catalina Wine Mixer” T-shirt to the office, nobody laughs. Or everybody laughs. Geez, I don’t know.
I’m gettin’ too old for this ish.
How old do YOU feel? Does your age mean anything for your career in advertising? Share in the comments...that’s the big box below, old-timer.

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After a year of creative incarceration in Corporate World, your beloved Corporate Hack finally distracted the guards, outran the bloodhounds and scaled the wall to make his escape. Now that he’s back where he belongs in Ad World, he’s re-branded himself as The Inside Man...but he’s still having Ad-Verse Reactions. 
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