When it comes to assignments, Lori has made an incredibly successful career out of approaching every one as an opportunity – whether it’s a high-tech computer account or canned tomatoes. Not so surprising when you consider this is a girl who’s known what she wanted to be since the age of 10. A little more than a decade later she had a B.A. in Advertising from Michigan State University, then a portfolio of work from Atlanta’s Portfolio Center that was so impressive, Wieden + Kennedy snatched her up. And how did Lori follow up a job at one of the world’s top shops? By taking a job at another of the world’s top shops, of course, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. A few years and several awards later, Lori hit the freelance circuit and also founded an advertising school called The Creative Department where, for five years, she and her staff taught many talented writers and art directors who are thriving in the business today. She followed that up with stints at AKQA a year-long stint at Apple, Inc. before joining Free Association (embedded at Google), where she currently works as CD/Copywriter. The only thing stronger than Lori’s devotion to her craft is her devotion to her Salvadorian husband, whom she helped fight deportation during these crazy Trump times. It was scary, nail-biting, heart-wrenching stuff. For a more playful peek at her relationship with her husband, check out Juat Juan Says, one of our favorite Lori creations.
Is ageism in the industry something you thought about in your 30s? Your 40s?
You always heard, you better figure out what you want to do after advertising because you can’t be old and creative. So, I guess it was in the back of my mind somewhere--but age never bothered me. Then, I started an ad school and suddenly felt older. (Probably when one of the students actually told me, “You’re old.”)
"I spent a good chunk of my career trying to prove that I wasn’t too green. Then all of a sudden, I feel like I’ve been doing this forever."
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.
I’m not sure it’s about age, but when you get to a certain level it feels like there are fewer opportunities.I spent a good chunk of my career trying to prove that I wasn’t too green. Then all of a sudden, I feel like I’ve been doing this forever. And when I was freelancing I would get the feeling agencies would rather hire a younger/cheaper model.
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 the beginning of my career I was bright-eyed and intimidated working at Wieden + Kennedy with all of these amazingly talented people. Where everyday, impossible things were made. I’m still passionate about big ideas, but these days I’m more impressed with doing things for good.
"Tech companies seem to be smart enough to know skill and talent matter the most and are embracing more seasoned employees."
Did the reality of the ad industry contribute to the decisions you made/the path you’ve taken?
Now I’m working for a product design firm and am embedded at Google. Something younger me would have not really considered. But, the industry has changed and like I said, roles at my level aren’t readily available at ad agencies in San Francisco and so many of us are taking jobs in-house. Tech companies seem to be smart enough to know skill and talent matter the most and are embracing more seasoned employees.On second thought, a tech company hired me--maybe not as bright as I thought.
What do you feel creative people over 50 can offer over someone 20 years their junior, things that are unappreciated, or just plain overlooked?
Being a spring chicken, I wouldn’t know! (heh heh). I feel like people over 50 have come from the era of real storytelling (I know, an overused term, but it’s true). And from a time when ideas were allowed to simmer for a while. You had weeks to really think about it, get into it, be thoughtful. Now it’s due tomorrow. And the younger people just automatically work that way. Also, this goes against my previous thought, but these days I am so much faster than I was when I was a whippersnapper!
"I feel like people over 50 have come from the era of real storytelling...You had weeks to really think about it, get into it, be thoughtful. Now it’s due tomorrow."
What is your advice to people who are nearing or over 40 in the ad industry?
First of all, if you’re a woman and you think you want to have kids: freeze your eggs! Don’t let work get in the way of having a life. Next, see all of these younger-than-you kids around? People your age taught them everything they know. Don’t forget that. Don’t worry about them.They’re running around wondering if they’re good enough. You’ve been doing this almost as long as they’ve been alive, you know you’re good enough. Also, maybe they can help you figure out Snapchat.
How are you approaching the next 10 years? What does your future hold?
I’d really like to take what I’ve learned over the years and apply it to a good cause or two. I’d like to tell the story of my husband who walked here from El Salvador as a kid. A few years ago we weren’t sure what was going to happen to him as we were applying for his green card and Trump put an end to Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans. Talk about nerve-racking. Luckily, Obama had left a loophole in place giving people who had been on TPS for many years, a pathway to get green cards and Juan got his. I’d love to create a documentary about him as a kid with little to no opportunity and his journey here. This topic affects so many--the hardest working, most lovely people I know.
What do you see as potential solutions for ageism in the industry? Any thoughts on possibly unionizing?
I had never thought of unionizing, but it could possibly be a good thing? I haven’t thought enough about it to say, really.
What are some positive things you’ve experienced as you’ve grown older in the business?
Most of my friends I met in advertising. I’m grateful for all of them. Also, I appreciate how with each new assignment or client, there’s an opportunity to learn about something you might not have before. I’ve worked on everything from huge tech to beer to feminine pads. Each time, I get pretty excited to find out about the people who use them, or more about the products themselves--how they’re made, etc. I’ve loved talking to organic farmers, Olympic athletes, and artists. I also think being a creative in this business teaches you to be strong. You put yourself out there all of the time--sharing ideas you truly believe in, and you get critiqued on a daily basis. You can’t take it personally, and it makes you have a thick skin.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
These days I’m so impressed by the multi-talented Issa Rae. Donald Glover/Childish Gambino too. (Just watch Atlanta ’s episode called “Teddy Perkins.”) I look up to those who fight for good--Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg at such young ages, Jimmy Carter who is ageless, and Matt Rivitz, a friend, who has worked in this business and done something amazing with Sleeping Giants. Believe it or not, I get inspired almost every time I take a Lyft or Uber. I’ve gotten into countless interesting conversations that stay with me. So many drivers have come from other countries for a better life, and work their asses off. Like a young guy who has another job working in his dad’s liquor store while going to Stanford for pediatric neurosurgery. And, I also look to my dad, who’s 80 going on 18. He never stops learning and creating.