How to sell a product that's past its sell-by date

Advertising has changed a bit … but one thing’s for sure ... Mark Denton is back.

At the age of 65 and after a long career in advertising, Mark Denton joined two advertising agencies as an intern. Here he shares his thoughts leading him to update his CV.

I was thinking, “What’s it all about eh?”

I’d been sitting beside the fax-machine for weeks… Or was it months?

I hadn’t made an advert for as long as I could remember (which, to be fair, ain’t saying much, seeing as I can’t remember where I put my glasses).

So, is it all over?!!

Have I finally reached my sell-by-date?

Then again, I s’pose I’d done bleedin’ well to cling on as long as I had, for 47-and-a-bit years…

… sigh. It was the early 70’s when I started, I was young and keen…

I was young and keen then, now I’m just keen… dead keen (not for the awards, free lunches, flash cars and shed-loads of dosh) just to be of some use… to contribute.

Every now and then I ask myself whether it’s time to throw the towel in: “I’ve had my turn, make way for the younger generation, the ones with the new, fresh ideas.”

Then I turn on the telly and see some of the bland, formulaic ads on offer and I think “NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! THEY STILL NEED ME!!!”

Mark Denton

There are SO many channels and ad-breaks now that something has to be really special to stand out. We’re competing with a tidal wave of messages.

Given the amount of competition for the public’s attention, shouldn’t adverts be MORE grabby and sticky and, well, dare I say it… entertaining? Not less?

The punters I speak to in real life are not impressed.

Frankly, I don’t even bother telling people that I’m in advertising anymore. I pretend I’m an Estate Agent to make myself appear more popular…

But when I’m alone, I find myself lining up the tins of beans in the cupboard and carefully rotating the labels so they’re square to the camera (what camera?).

It’s my training as an Art Director y’see. You can’t switch it off. It’s ingrained. It’s just habit.

Sometimes I put my Freedom Pass to use on the Underground but I find myself getting wound-up by the bad kerning on most cross-track posters (not to mention the quality of the copy!)

Where’s the love? Where’s the craft? Where’s the attention to detail?

It’s not a lot of use getting aerated tho’ (that means annoyed, btw), for some reason, no one seems to be interested in what I think.

It’s like Thomas Chippendale gettin’ the ‘ump with IKEA…a complete waste of his bleedin’ time.

The world’s moved on!

Of course there has been plenty of evidence along the way that the golden/heady years of advertising were on the wane.

Like a few years ago when I had to travel up to Glasgow for a pre-pre-pre-pre-PRE-production meeting, and they didn’t even lay on a biscuit, let alone a cuppa to dip it in…

But even as the wages went down and the glamorous award shows moved from Park Lane to Battersea Park, I just kept my head down, concentrated on the work, and tried not to notice.

Not that the glitz was the reason I got into advertising in the first place, I loved the business because my Mum used to laugh at the adverts, and I just loved making my Mum laugh.

47 years later, I still feel the same.

However, a funny (NOT in a humorous way) thing happened after The Big Covid Lockdown:

I came out of hiding, raring to go…


It’s like everyone I ever knew in advertising had lost my phone number…

The production company that repped me for Commercials took me out for a lovely lunch and fired me (I didn’t blame them, I know I’m a tough sell nowadays).


After a very brief spell of feeling very sorry for myself, I started thinking about potential solutions.

I’m a creative after all; I should be able to think my way back into advertising!

Maybe… maybe… I was just a bit out of touch! Maybe the process inside the ad business had changed and all I needed to do was learn about it!

There was only one thing for it: to start at the bottom, at the very bottom.

So I put a message out on social media (SEE! I can be modern!) offering my services as an intern.

YES, you ‘eard right… A 65 year-old intern!

St Luke’s took the plunge - signed me up for a month. Grey London followed suit and took me on for 6 weeks.

It was fun and fascinating; a real voyage of discovery.

I decided to mark the experiment by making a couple of trailers for films about my experience, films that didn’t actually exist…

But the response I got after putting the trailers out on Instagram and LinkedIn wasn’t just good: it was enormous!! I was getting offered internships all over the place. And talks. And articles. And TV appearances.

In fact, the teasers have gone down so well that we’re now expanding them into a 30-minute mini-documentary.


Guess what?

Advertising HAS changed a bit.

… but one thing’s for sure…I’m BACK!

Hear more about Mark's internship at the IPA Training Forum: The Age Gap - Retention, Reach and Recognition


 The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024