AD MEN: VICTIMS OF MIDLIFE CRISIS?
Michael Gbolade, our editor-at-large in his usual incisive manner satirises “midlife crisis” as it plays out in Nigeria’s advertising industry especially among creatives. Enjoy the read.
Sometime last week, this writer got a mail from a friend that’s on the client side. Excerpt of the mail reads:
“… So I met the creative head and his team today. The creative head turned out to be a known person, Mr. XYZ (name withheld), mate and friend of my uncle who is in his late forties. Mr. XYZ is all decked like a teenager. Real Old-Papa-Youngie, (lol). Seems you guys in the ad world are suffering from midlife crisis!”
The above mail inspired this piece.
On a serious note, let’s now picture a typical creative (ad) man within our industry: Dresses hippie so as to look smart. Wears wristbands, and scraggly beard that smacks of youthful demeanor, though in a contrived way. Sometimes, maintains a clean shave to pitifully look younger, or keeps a well-shaved head that stylishly hides baldness. Dyed hair to fight off the grey, ridiculous kinky braids, dreads or Afros just to assume some youthful coolness. Stomach well blasted to control the potbelly malaise. Happy-go-lucky deportment; a strong dislike when referred to as “Mr.” reason being that, the title “Mr.” makes one feel older.
In addition, most ad men do more things that are considered entertaining, such as clubbing and hangouts. They feel they should live every moment to its fullest because life seems to be rushing by. They sometimes borrow to buy flashy stuffs, and big cars (mostly SUVs) so as to appear successful, and adventurous in a youthful way. They brandish “football age” everywhere; make out with the younger opposite sex; take forever to “settle down,” and when they do, its usually done secretly so as not to tint their subtle youthful radicalism. And the list goes on and on.
Interestingly, Elliott Jaques, the progenitor of the concept of Midlife Crisis (45-64), listed all the above characteristics as symptoms of midlife crises.
Though reasons why some ad men indulge in the above listed characteristics might be unknown, or personal; the obvious would be the need to stay and look relevant since creative advertising as a profession is often regarded as a youth sport. Ours is a society where the cultural atmosphere makes it increasingly difficult for people in their forties and above to find jobs, hence the anxiousness to keep any good job even if it requires dressing the part to look younger.
However, the big question is: Can we assume that most ad men are truly victims of midlife crisis? Maybe no. Maybe yes.
According to Cheryl Arutt, a U.S based forensic psychologist and media consultant: “more than anything else, most creative people in advertising are not troubled with midlife crisis, rather with (midlife) stressors.”
Stressors are the day-to-day toll on life. The draining, multiple roles we play everyday: employee/project manager/ lover/father/husband/mother/wife, son/daughter, etc., coupled with the cutthroat demands of clients, they all add up to sometimes instigate certain “therapeutic” physiognomies which many people see, and erroneously labeled as midlife crisis.
On the other hand, (Midlife) Crisis is a deeper psychosomatic trauma often caused by a major event in life such as the death of loved one, protracted or terminal health issues, agonizing career setbacks,etc. This could very well happen to anybody at any point in life, and not necessarily a midlife challenge.
In fact, according to experts, aging doesn’t amount to crisis. It might become such only when a mental disposition at a certain age doesn’t correlate with its physical achievements. Or simply put, when one doesn’t measure up to certain societal expectations at a given age.
But really, who cares about what people or the society thinks?
According to Carl Jung, a renowned Swiss psychotherapist: “individuation is the best of life.”Individuation is simply the process of being your true self without an apology. Being our true selves will always move us from what the great psychologist, Abraham Maslow, called “deficiency motivations to growth motivations.”Growth Motivation is the intrinsic drive to realize full potentials regardless any perceived age limitations.
In being one self, whether an aged creative chooses to dress like Old-Papa-Youngie really doesn’t matter, what truly matters is: Can he still deliver on briefs assigned to him in a fresher way? If yes, then life goes on any which way!
… I’M JUST SAYING.