You know those people who seem to never stop thinking/envisioning/working (except, of course, they also look like they’re having so much fun, it’s hardly seems right to call it “work”)?  Yup, one of those people is Marco, an award-winning creative who isn’t just a talented leader, he’s also an uber-talented doer.  And he’s done it time and time again for over 20 years—helping to create anything and everything from brand initiatives to integrated campaigns and immersive experiences in youth culture, skate/snow/surf lifestyle, technology, sports and entertainment, and more.
And he didn’t stop there.  No, Marco decided, in his not-so-spare time, he would go on to co-found a super cool performance Merino wool base layer company focused on sustainability from Norway. Seriously.
Okay, we’re exhausted writing about everything Marco is up to. Might want to take a breath before you read about him.

Is ageism in the industry something you thought about in your 30s?  Your 40s?
Yeah, ageism is something I’ve thought about, but not for very long because I never think of myself that way. I mean, I’m always moving and doing something so it’s hard for me to think of myself in a way where my age is a detriment to my creativity. It’s an asset. Maybe I’m fooling myself that it doesn’t apply to me, but I don’t think it has in my career. Not yet anyways.

"I’ve...never been a big fan of growing up and I think that comes across in what I do, what I’m into and how I operate."

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 honestly don’t think that ageism has really had a deep effect on me or my career. Now, am I an expert on Tik Tok? No, definitely not, but I love to stay current with culture and the things I’m into, and I think that gives me a fresh perspective on things. I’ve also never been a big fan of growing up and I think that comes across in what I do, what I’m into and how I operate.

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? 
Oh man, where I am now, vs where I started are in one way galaxies apart, but in another way, a completely natural trajectory for me. I grew up skateboarding and snowboarding and as such was heavily influenced by the art, music, and style that went along with it. And still am. I studied Graphic Design in college which led to a career in design and then advertising where I loved the story telling aspect of building brands. I became a student of advertising and everyone in it, what they were doing, what was winning awards and so forth. But at a certain point, maybe about 7 years in or so, it all started feeling very formulaic to me. The inspiration was waning. So I started exploring other aspects where I could flex creatively, like directing. I directed commercials for a few years and found it re-inspired me. It made me look at creating in a different way. I actually think enabling creatives to go through the process of directing their own content, spots, whatever, is such an enriching experience because it really forces you to think through all of the details. What has to happen when,  how long, how does one shot flow into the next. And it forces you to make choices. Which as an advertising creative, you never are really the final word on. It was really a growth experience. And it inspired me to reach further out beyond advertising for inspiration, to movies, photography, music, design, and ultimately, back to skateboarding and snowboarding. It reminded me to get back to the part of creative that I loved most, which was the cultural aspect of it. Youth culture, art, skate and snowboard culture, music, etc. It allowed me to take all of the things I’d learned and reapply them through this lens and start the youth culture division at KBS. It also tapped into an entrepreneurial bug I never knew I had. But the ability to funnel my skills and pair that with my passions to build relationships with the brands and lifestyle I loved like, Vans, Nike SB, Jordan and musicians and athletes like Snoop, Danny Way, Eric Koston and so forth, it was just a crystallization of where my energy was. But my creative journey is and remains an evolution. I’ve expanded these skills to running agencies, gaining deep experience in events and experiential, and most recently starting and launching a global brand of my own. They’re all great sources of limitless inspiration and if I had the chance to tell my early self anything, it would be to remain inspired by everything, especially the things you love, and don’t waste time on the formulaic shit.

Did the reality of the ad industry contribute to the decisions you made/the path you’ve taken?
Advertising 100% shaped my path. Whether I wanted it to or not. It’s been a journey of discovery, of myself mostly, but the things I’ve done in this industry, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone, have made me realize that I wouldn’t be where I am without all of that falling into place in exactly the way it did. I’m right where I need to be and it gave me the confidence in myself to trust that.

"I had a creative director pull me aside early on in my career and just checked my attitude...he helped (in a kind and caring way) open that aperture to realize that the real magic comes from the collaboration, the discovery, the unexpected, and to leave myself open to it."

What do you feel creative people over 50 can offer over someone 20 years their junior, things that are unappreciated, or just plain overlooked?   
This is a great question. I had a creative director pull me aside early on in my career and just checked my attitude. I'm embarrassed by it now because at the time, I thought I knew so much about what good work was, but I just had a really narrow perspective and he helped (in a kind and caring way) open that aperture to realize that the real magic comes from the collaboration, the discovery, the unexpected, and to leave myself open to it. And to remember that I will always be learning until the day I die. So that’s a bit of sage advice I’d pass along. Leave yourself open to the possibility that you don’t actually know shit. Because when you do, then you allow yourself to absorb and reinterpret the world in interesting ways. The other 2 great pieces of advice I got was from Nina DiSesa (CCO of McCann) when I first started there. The first was that you can’t be all output. You need input. If your whole life just revolves around advertising, you wont have much to offer. You need to be inspired by movies, music, art, food, culture because you can’t influence someone else’s life if you don’t have one yourself. Take a break, go watch a movie, read a comic book, do something interesting. The second piece of advice was the only person who is going to drive your career is you. Don’t wait or depend on someone else to do it for you. Make your own shit happen.

"Fun and passion are timeless, ageless."

What is your advice to people who are nearing or over 40 in the ad industry?
Just keep having fun. And if it’s become not fun, try to get back to the part of the job that got you into it in the first place. We learn a lot in this industry. How can we apply that to a different sector? Or how can we connect other things we’re passionate about with the parts of what we do in advertising that we love. I think 40+ has a lot to offer. Fun and passion are timeless, ageless. I know people older than me at are still super cool, fun and interesting and that to me is an inspiration. So just keep finding the fun in whatever your do.

How are you approaching the next 10 years?  What does your future hold?
Per my note above, I’m focusing on doing fun things with good people. Life’s too short to do it any other way. Im helping a good friend get her life sciences company out into the world, because I believe in her product, and in her, and the change it will bring about for women. I’ve also started my own brand, Woolf Merino, a Merino wool base layer brand for snowboarding and skiing, with a group of friends in Norway that launched here in the US this year. I’ve learned and continue to learn so much each day from both of these endeavors and I think that’s a big part of the fuel that keeps me going. And of course having skin in the game on these projects helps fuel my entrepreneurial bug. Having these instances where I’m learning new things, and gaining new insights into human nature, it all keeps me motivated and inspired creatively when it comes to growing these brands or freelancing on interesting projects with other agencies. I could do this forever so long as I’m learning and having fun with good people.

"I still see some very senior level people in our industry solving problems quicker, more efficiently, and more creatively than the new blood because they know what to look for and what needs to happen to generate real success."

What do you see as potential solutions for ageism in the industry?  Any thoughts on possibly unionizing?
I don’t know anything about unionizing, but rather I think we need to find a way to place value on experience. It’s not the age of people that I think is becoming the issue, but rather, as people become more experienced in this industry, their salaries naturally go. With brands cutting budgets and less and less AOR status, naturally that becomes an issue. However, our industry is at a loss because it’s the experience that needs to be valued. Knowing where to “tap the hammer” has a lot of value and can help avoid a lot of costly mistakes, and pass along that knowledge to the next gen. I still see some very senior level people in our industry solving problems quicker, more efficiently, and more creatively than the new blood because they know what to look for and what needs to happen to generate real success. If brands see and understand the value in that, then that will change the value prop for agencies. But I don’t know. Maybe I’m being naïve.

What are some positive things you’ve experienced as you’ve grown older in the business? 
As I’ve grown older in this business, I remain inspired by opportunities for this industry to actually do good. To help people grow relationships, to help generate support for important causes and to turn away businesses and industries that are hurting the world. I hope we can continue to do more of that on a bigger scale. I’ve come to realize that friendships happen more easily when you have something in common with the other person. Our relationships with brands work much the same way. I’ve loved seeing and working with brands who understand this, and that in order to have a real relationship with your consumer, or community, you need to care about and support the things that they care about. 

Who do you look to for inspiration?
I look to literally everyone. Inspiration has hit me from so many different places, and people. From my family, to my dog, friends, childhood heroes, current day heroes. I mean there is no one person. That’s the beauty of creativity I guess. Lightning can strike from anywhere. But If there is a trend I’ve noticed in myself, its that my inspiration usually comes from a identifying something that is underserved. Either as an industry, or product, or consumer, or even a conversation that isn’t happening and bringing it forward into the light in a new and fresh way.

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