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Are You Old Enough To Be A Curator Of Pop Culture?

Grant McCracken explores Barbara Lippert's recent appointment as "curator of pop culture" at Goodby, Silverstein.

Grant McCracken, Cultureby
Grant McCracken, Cultureby on March 8, 2011.

My world rocked recently when it was revealed that Barbara Lippert was leaving Adweek for Goodby, Silverstein where she has been made “curator of pop culture.”

Yes, of course, I would have preferred that she be called a Chief Culture Officer. But it’s enough that the appointment was made.

As readers of my blog will know, I was a fan of Lippert’s weekly Adweek column on advertising. It was superb.

Stuart Elliott’s announcement of the event was marred slightly by two of the reader comments that followed it.

I know I’m going to get slammed by this opinion and I mean no disrespect; but even the most au courant 55 year-old is in no position to be the trend spotter for an ad agency. While I think the overwhelming weight that’s placed on reaching 18-34 is a huge error, it represents the current state of the business; and no 55-year-old is going to have her hand on that pulse. It may be bad form to bring the fictional Mad Men into this, but last season, we saw Don (who is 20 years younger) make several faux pas because of his lack of feel for a younger zeitgeist.

If Goodby, Silverstein wants this kind of input, they need to impanel a diverse group of twenty-somethings, who bring a variety of veiws to their attention.
[ signed, Curly Countering pomposity, dated January 28, 2011 ]

The second comment:

I second the view about the incongruity of a 55 year old trendspotter. I don’t care how hip you are, you just aren’t on the cutting edge of much except Botox and Rogaine. [...]
[ signed, copywolf, dated January 29, 2011 ]

Assumptions, assumptions!

Assumption 1: that Lippert was hired as a trend spotter.

Jeff Goodby doesn’t say anything about trend spotting. In fact, Lippert has been hired as an expert on pop culture. God spare us, Goodby and Silverstein, if she fulfills her duties by spotting trends. Culture is only about 20% trends. Agencies and corporations that spend their time spotting these trends lock themselves into an endless game of catch up. Lippert is responsible for the whole of the water front of our culture, and here her age becomes an advantage.

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