We all have dream clients we’d kill (or perhaps just maim) to work on. Nike. Apple. For Patrick, it was the Grammys. Not only did Patrick dream of working on this insanely cool brand, but he actually did insanely cool work for it that scooped up Lions, Webby’s, Effies and so on and so on. And you know what’s even cooler? He fucking got to meet nearly every Grammy act and attend the fucking rehearsals, which he describes as “all pretty crazy when you look back on it.” Um, yeah.
Anyway, Patrick has done a whole lot more impressive writing, creative directing, brand consulting and multi-platform content specializing that we could go on about, but we figure we should keep our jealousy in check.
Is ageism in the industry something you thought about in your 30s? Your 40s?
Early in my career I saw some older creatives being marginalized or moved out. But I didn’t attribute it to age because, at the same time, I saw older creatives continue to dominate the industry. And I saw younger, cheaper creatives moved out for not performing. That’s the way it was back when agencies were independent and beholden to the vision of their founders, rather than their shareholders.
Looking back on those “older” creatives, they are among the best I’ve encountered in my career. Huge influences, all.
Long story short… I didn’t’ think much about it. Because I didn’t see a direct correlation.
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.
Sure, but not in any real scandalous way. To my experience, the biggest challenge is what’s hiding in plain sight: false urgency. Agencies have become addicted to false urgency. Everything is a fire drill. When I was younger, I loved a good fire drill. It meant free dinners. Beers. And some Call of Duty. I had all night to solve the problem. Now - and I think we can all admit it’s because of age - I just want to get home. So I’ve trained myself to work smarter. Faster. More efficiently. The danger here is that you’re not seen putting in the nights and weekends. You’re only seen heading for the exit at 6PM. Assumptions are made. Resentment builds. But the quality of our work is the great equalizer. And if my work wins the day, those assumptions fall away. Resentment fades. And all is good.
Priorities change. Goals don’t.
Seriously though, advertising. Stop with the false urgency thing. It devalues your people. It devalues your product. And it devalues the industry. Sure, there will always be fire drills. But they should be the exception, not the rule. And a high price tag should be placed on them.
"Priorities change. Goals don't."
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?
My creative journey has been a circuitous one. Every opportunity seems to have connected me to the next opportunity. Which has led me in a lot of interesting, unexpected directions.
But I don’t spend a lot of time looking back. I’m very focused on now. And, right now, I feel more creative and more prolific than ever. That’s part maturity. Part experience. And part confidence. I know who I am and what I bring. And I know how to access it.
Compared to my mindset when I was beginning my career? I no longer look outside myself for affirmation. Or compare my career to the careers of others. There’s a certain calmness that comes with that. And I’ve found that, once I pushed away all those useless emotions, like anxiety and fear, I cleared the way for creativity to flow more freely. Which made me a better creative person. Which made me less anxious and fearful person. Which made me an even better creative person.
And there you have it.
"I no longer look outside myself for affirmation. Or compare my career to the careers of others. There’s a certain calmness that comes with that."
Did the reality of the ad industry contribute to the decisions you made/the path you’ve taken?
Most assuredly it has. But in a really, really positive way. I left the agency world on my own, while still in my 30s, to pursue other creative opportunities - though I do still freelance for agencies on occasion. My time in advertising gave me the courage and confidence to strike out on my own. And it’s what gave me the tools I need to survive here.
Today, I’m more centered and more in control than I've ever been at any point in my career. I understand how my skill set is best utilized and where. And, as a result, my path has expanded in ways I never imagined. I’m working in tech, auto, music, art, and entertainment. I’m writing, directing, producing, and strategizing. I’m creating films, music videos, events, digital experiences, and, yes, advertising.
But the best part is, now, I can take my kids to school in the morning. And, sometimes, I pick them up in the afternoon. I smile more. I worry less. And I build Lego dragons.
I owe that, all of it, to the reality of the industry.
As I’m writing all of this, I’m wondering what it would be like if I tried to get back in. That might change all of my answers!
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’ve always been attracted to this Anais Nin quote:
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
And I believe courage - at least the non-foolish brand of it - comes with experience.
Anna Wintour, Tom Ford, Jay-Z, Thom Yorke, Patty Jenkins, Judy Chicago, Marcel Dzama, Joan Didion, Michael Chabon. All over 45. All at the pinnacle of their respective crafts. Their creativity has not been dampened by age. Nor has their appeal. Both, in fact, have only grown with age. And their influence will be felt for generations to come.
It would be impossible to separate their experience from their creative output. And that experience is what gives each the courage to continually blow our minds. So… why would it be any different for advertising creatives?
"I believe courage–at least the non-foolish brand of it–comes with experience."
What is your advice to people who are nearing or over 40 in the ad industry?
Bet on yourself.
How are you approaching the next 10 years? What does your future hold?
I really try to remain in the present. I know how cliche and sanctimonious that sounds. But it works for me. Saving money works, too. We also got one of those Peloton bikes.
What do you see as potential solutions for ageism in the industry? Any thoughts on possibly unionizing?
Potential solutions? There’s only one: Competition.
I’m intrigued. Tell me more.
What are some positive things you’ve experienced as you’ve grown older in the business?
I’ve found balance. And, with that, I’ve rediscovered what I love about being a creative person.
Who do you look to for inspiration?