Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Who Is This Guy Anyway?

If you’ve been following this blog for the past couple of months, you’ve probably asked that question, so here’s a brief overview. Forty years ago, exactly one month after graduating from the University of Illinois with a BA in philosophy (try finding work in that field, Socrates), I got a job at one of Chicago’s biggest ad agencies. That was a miracle of sorts, because I had no education or training in the field, but I did have a knack for doing ads, especially thirty second TV commercials. Maybe it was destiny. Or maybe it was in my genes. After all, my father Vincent R. Vassolo had created the Maytag Loneliest Man In Town for Leo Burnett, and enjoyed a run of almost forty years in the business as a copywriter and creative director.

So, I began plying my trade as a creative advertising professional on July 16, 1969, steadily rising from coffee-fetching junior copywriter to creative director, executive producer and, finally, director of creative services.  Over the past forty years, I’ve worked at some of the biggest, most demanding ad agencies in the world (Burnett, Y&R, FC&B, McCann, et al), as well as some of the smallest and most creative (you’ve never heard of them).  I’ve also worked as Director of Marketing Communications in corporations, ranging from rock-solid Rockwell to “trying to make it on a wing and a prayer” e-commerce start-ups, as well as high-tech companies. And, I’ve run businesses of my own, including the latest, Vim, Vigor & Vassolo LLC, an advertising agency that specializes in creating marketing strategies and communications that resonate with and motivate Baby Boomers. (We also create advertising and marcom for a variety of other clients.)

During the mid-90s, I worked at advertising by day, and at night I earned a master’s degree in Gerontology Counseling followed by a post-graduate professional certificate in the same. I branched out from advertising, because I love to learn, especially cutting-edge stuff. And there’s nothing as unexplored or unknown as the vast implications of what happens when the entire world ages way beyond “normal” expectations. In America, particularly, it represents an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to profit from understanding and meeting the needs of the biggest, richest market segment in the history of the world: The Baby Boomers.

I’m a Boomer my self, of course, and I’ve always been a believer in Positive Aging, even when I was quite young. It’s not an easy thing to embrace wholeheartedly, because life’s challenges can run from merely irritating to quite daunting. But long ago, I learned that Positive Aging is the only way to go, because living lethargically is a waste of breath.

My lifelong commitment to Positive Aging has paid off quite nicely, because it’s helped me achieve a great deal despite the fact that I’ve had Crohn’s disease for 50 years (I’ve also got 15 surgeries under my belt—literally). Through it all, I’ve raised a family, had a long, successful career, and in my spare time, I earned a 7th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, which I taught for over a quarter of a century.

I suppose I could have curled up in a fetal position, and languished, but that would have been a living death. My belief in Positive Aging has kept me interested in the possibilities of tomorrow. As a consequence, I’ve remained as fully engaged as possible with daily life, day after day, decade after decade.

So, although Positive Aging may sound like some New Age mumbo jumbo, Baby Boomers like me are going to demonstrate its real meaning through living rather than lip service. Wait and see. But don’t wait too long, or you’ll miss out on a lot of the upside.

Instead, be among the pioneers who will definitively break the chains of our youth-worshipping culture. Shed your ageist prejudices. Shape your own creative vision of the meaning of the Dawn of the Boomers. Then understand each Boomer as an individual by asking “Who is this guy (or gal) anyway?” If you listen in just the right way—with your third ear—you’ll discover that the answers often reveal the Power of Positive Aging.


SEO Diva said...

I love it that you're focusing on Baby Boomers. I've been trying to get the concept across for some time now that Baby Boomers have the most disposable income yet only 10% of marketing efforts are targeted to them. It's hard to get 26 year old marketers to stop looking in the mirror and thinking everyone looks like them.

Mary Anne said...

Vince - you said it so well! I'm so hyped up about the opportunities to market to us Boomer's as about THE segment to pursue, that I enjoy hearing someone else just say it. I'm done practicing law and dealing with a chronic illness too (Multiple Sclerosis) so positive aging or healthy aging is very important to me also. That's partly why I chose the company that I did, GeneWize, to not only build a biz but also to take good care of my health. We're going to push the market until the undertakers finish burying the last one of us and that'll make that industry quite healthy for a good 18 years or more! Take care.

Mary Anne