If you look at David’s resumé, you’ll see he has decades of CD experience at places like Hal Riney and Deutsch. Then you’ll notice that after these decades, David took a job as senior writer at 72 & Sunny. And you’ll excitedly ask him about it, like we did, and say, "OMG, that’s awesome, what’s the story there?" And that’s when you’ll learn that it all started when David was freelancing and “sorta hit it off with the gang there” (aka Glenn Cole, John Boiler, and Matt Jarvis). He immediately started selling stuff on their HP business, so soon they had him working on new biz as well. They won Samsung, and David was a part of that work too (remember that fun Apple fanboys/Apple store line campaign? Of course you do). Then the 72 bigwigs smartly said they wanted David to stick around full time-- to just do the work, not manage. And David agreed because “it was at a point when most creatives don't get hired at the happening places and I was knee-deep in producing really fun work. I really enjoyed it on many levels. It was fun just to write and be surrounded by amazing talent. I produced work that I loved. I felt lucky to have the opportunity at that point in my career.” Kind of amazing. Ultimately, David made the difficult decision that it was time to move on—he didn't want to force the family to move to LA (from San Fran). “Life priorities over advertising priorities,” he explains. “I was there about two years in all. The hardest part was the hours–that "live to work" part of it is definitely easier when you're closer to 30 than 50!”
David is currently back in San Fran in business for himself at Rule of 3 making his clients very, very happy.
Is ageism in the industry something you thought about in your 30s? Your 40s?
I didn’t know I was thinking about it, but come to think of it, I was thinking about it. My hair had started going gray when I was in my late twenties, and by my mid-thirties, I was far more salt than pepper. So, looking back, there was a bit of self-consciousness that accompanied the gray, then the silver … then the white …
"In one of my later staff jobs, there was a particular CMO who wondered why the CD on his business didn’t have a beard and wear a trucker hat."
Is ageism something that’s affected you? What are some of the challenges you faced as a person who was getting older in the business? Do tell.
In one of my later staff jobs, there was a particular CMO who wondered why the CD on his business didn’t have a beard and wear a trucker hat. No skate shoes, no chance. Or so it seemed. It wasn’t an awesome experience, but it also wasn’t a regular occurrence. Overall, getting up there in creative years (very similar to dog years) was about sensing it was a natural time to transition. And the freelance was super-steady, so I felt fortunate.
Tell us about your own creative journey. What are your thoughts on where you are now, compared to your mindset when you were in the beginning of your career?
In my early career, I was the typical awards-obsessed creative. Angst-ridden over what sold, what didn’t. Age is great at shaving off those edges. And taking it all more in stride added fuel, which led to great “second half” jobs at Deutsch and 72 & Sunny. Eventually that allowed me to go out and grow my own company, Rule of 3. You care differently when you hold the relationship personally with clients. I’m really enjoying that. The new now works.
Did the reality of the ad industry contribute to the decisions you made/the path you’ve taken?
My very first creative partner and I used to joke about the movie, Logan’s Run, where when you hit thirty, they turn you into garden mulch. You could say the “Logan’s Run” factor played a role in leading me out of a traditional job-to-job track. But you could just as easily say that age provided the confidence and motivation to create in new and better ways.
"I’d say nothing beats ageism like a deadline that’s a week off and an agency war room filled with crappy ideas. Experience matters when the pressure is on."
What do you feel creative people over 50 can offer over someone 20 years their junior, things that are unappreciated, or just plain overlooked?
I can help them shop cars, mortgages and dental floss. In addition, I’d say nothing beats ageism like a deadline that’s a week off and an agency war room filled with crappy ideas. Experience matters when the pressure is on. Or when the first presentation bombs. Younger creatives can gain from our ability to call an audible.
What is your advice to people who are nearing or over 40 in the ad industry?
If you still love creating, keep immersing in culture and writing off your book, music and movie costs as “creative review” on your taxes. Keep networking—stay connected to as many ideas and people as possible. I wouldn’t want to gloss over the challenge that staying relevant can be. It’s not easy. With luck, you’ve got an amazing wife and kids like I did, that will make sure you change out of your Zoom-wear in the morning and keep plugging.
How are you approaching the next 10 years? What does your future hold?
I’m enjoying having an agency that is actually in sync with the times. I can see doing this for another five, another ten … who knows? Right now, I’ve got a client that promotes impact investing in companies with a conscience and another helping to fight the pandemic—so I’d like to do more work that’s consequential. With an occasional gourmet burrito chain for variety.
"There’s so much other rethinking going on in the world on big, thorny issues that advertising might have to take a number."
What do you see as potential solutions for ageism in the industry? Any thoughts on possibly unionizing?
Hmmmm. There’s so much other rethinking going on in the world on big, thorny issues that advertising might have to take a number. I’m not sure how unionizing would work. Hey, brainstorming here, how about insurrection? That seems popular now.
What are some positive things you’ve experienced as you’ve grown older in the business?
In my journey, I was able to meet creative directors who saw past the myth of age and looked to the work. So that has been a huge positive. I’ve also experienced friendships that take the sting out of getting up there. I join a holiday reunion dinner every year and the bourbon and stories flow. We’re getting to the point where we may have to meet for the “Early Bird,” but at least then we get the dessert thrown in. These things cut both ways!
Who do you look to for inspiration?
Some recent clients are doing amazing things for the planet and for helping underserved communities. They inspire me. Politicians that fight the good fight still inspire me. My favorite sports team, the Chicago Cubs, won a world series after 109 years. Drop the mic! Anything is possible.