Hi. I'm Mark Gardiner. re: Revolutionary Old Idea is my idea.

Hi. I'm Mark Gardiner. re: Revolutionary Old Idea is my idea.

I began working in the ad business in the 1980s, up in Calgary, Canada.

I worked on the copy side (big surprise, looking at this site, eh?) and as a Creative Director, mainly on the 200-store Mark's Work Wearhouse. Those were the days when the company was still run by its iconoclastic founder, Mark Blumes. For a while, I moved to the client side, and worked as the chain's VP Marketing at a time when the brand was being repositioned upmarket.

Later, I was CD at McCann's Calgary shop (mostly General Motors work) and at SGCI in New Brunswick (where I led the team that created the Aliant telecom brand.) I also worked for Muller & Company in Kansas City (Muller's claim to fame was that it had been dubbed 'One of the Top 6 Small Shops in the U.S.' by Adweek. Or was it Advertising Age? Whatever.)

After about 15 years in the ad business I'd made a lot of good money and a few good friends but I was disillusioned by the industry's overall lack of strategic insight and tendency to waste money and effort. In 2001 I quit a six-figure ad gig, sold everything I owned, and moved to the Isle of Man. Over the next year I prepared to compete in the world's most dangerous organized sporting event: The Isle of Man TT motorcycle races.

I guess I hadn't completely forgiven the ad business for my disillusions when I wrote Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's, which is a blueprint for building strong brands without advertising.

I guess I hadn't completely forgiven the ad business for my disillusions when I wrote Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's, which is a blueprint for building strong brands without advertising.


re: Revolutionary Old Idea

They say nature abhors a vacuum. In this case, the vacuum is the nearly complete absence of any one over 50 employed in the ad industry.

Ageism is the ad industry's last acceptable prejudice. I don't approve of it, but I understand it. At least since the 'Mad Men' era—if not longer—the business has believed that consumers established brand habits at a very young age.

You know TV's Nielsen ratings? Of course you do. Adweek refers to Nielsen's 18-44 year-old demographic segment as 'the demo', as if there was only one demographic that mattered. Nielsen doesn't even break out viewers over 54. It's as if, at age 55, consumers become invisible.

Convinced that only young people could talk to young people, agency creative departments, in particular, became youth cults.

And yet, there are 55 million Americans over 55, spending $3 trillion per year. They form a market twice the size (and more than twice as rich as) California. Almost the only time the ad industry acknowledges them at all is when it's charged to develop campaigns for products ranging from Viagra to Depends, that are used exclusively by older consumers. Want to know why those erectile-dysfunction drug ads are so cringeworthy?* Because they're conceived and written by creatives who are desperately trying not to visualize their parents having sex.

That's why I'm here.

I don't mean that I'm here to help young creatives imagine old people going at it. I'm here to help marketers and the ad industry understand that us old Baby Boomers are a completely new demographic phenomenon. There are more of us; we don't think of ourselves as old, or act our age just because that's what our parents did; and we're open to (even actively seeking out) new ideas and experiences.

Ironically, the people with the out-of-date ideas about old people are young people, like the ones who work at your current ad agency. I'm here to get them up to speed. That's a good thing for an old TT racer to do, eh?