Retired, not retiring: Ad people are staying active and creative

By Published on .

Advertising people don't lose their creative juices when they retire. In fact, some of the things they do to keep busy and productive are pretty creative in themselves.

Take retired adman Harold Levine, for example. Harold, a founding partner of the ad agency Levine, Huntley, Schmidt & Beaver in New York, signed on as a $1-a-year man to put together a marketing campaign to resuscitate the moribund city of Bridgeport, Conn.

The city fathers want to turn around Bridgeport's image as infested with crime and corruption by infusing it with a more wholesome brand identity. They were happy to take Harold up on his offer to work for $1 a year.

"It's funny, because when the mayor introduced me to the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, he took a dollar bill out of his wallet and gave it to me," Harold told the Westport Minuteman. "It was the first time I had ever been paid in advance for a job."

I hope the mayor doesn't put the $1 he gave Harold on his expense account as $5 and create a new scandal, but Harold's enthusiasm and perspective (two major attributes of good ad people) should engender lots of cooperation.

He understands the need to work together on both sides of the fence. Back in 1997 Harold wrote a piece for us that could have been talking about his new Bridgeport account. "The agency/client relationship is both important and fragile. It frequently starts with great excitement and enthusiasm, however with personnel turnover and changing managements, the initial harmony is severely disrupted. It should be the responsibility of top management of both companies to keep the early excitement alive."

Harold is especially well connected in his community (he's chairman of the Music and Arts Center for Humanity in Bridgeport), but I'll bet there are plenty of retired ad people who could make an equal contribution.

My old friend Dick Criswell, himself a retired ad agency guy, has long had a great idea to harness the firepower of ad folks no longer in the business. He suggested forming a group called the Ad Agers, about-to-retire or retired marketing/advertising/media execs " who want to stay close or in some way continue to be involved with the industry."

Members of Ad Agers, in addition to their subscription to our publication, would receive a newsletter carrying articles on retirement interests related to the field and stories on what Ad Agers are doing to stay involved. There'd also be announcements of coming Ad Ager events, and members would also receive a directory of the names, addresses and other pertinent data (such as special employment expertise) of all Ad Agers.

I would visualize that much of the Ad Ager content would be as a Web site of the same name. Members could log on and ask if anybody had experience volunteering, say, to help the local police force find new recruits or consulting with an area hardware store. And police forces and hardware stores could run "help wanted" notices soliciting Ad Agers' help.

The Web site could also establish a link between colleges looking for ad people to lecture and Ad Agers seeking such a gig.

Ad Agers, being the social beings that they are, could also put together golf outings, luncheons and travel tours for fellow members.

Ad people have no shortage of great ideas, and it would be fun to share them with fellow Ad Agers and comment among themselves on the ad events of the day. (Dick Criswell, for instance, is convinced that "a lot of what's wrong with advertising today is that too few creative people understand or know the principles of good salesmanship." Reaction, prospective Ad Agers?)

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