Advertising is ageist. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell yourself, or me, or others that it isn’t, that’s simply not true. It’s hiring across the board says that it sees young talent as exciting. And old talent as stale.
Advertising is letting itself down. It is woefully bad at talking to older audiences. And that’s dumb. Older audiences have the majority of spending power – at least in Australia, the US and Europe. It is losing experienced talent. And that’s dumb too. Experience is wisdom.
My “movement”, my decision to be an ageism activist in advertising, began in earnest when I spoke to two young adpeople at the end of an interview last year. One was a creative and the other was a suit. I asked them how someone in their twenties or thirties could know what it was like to be older. Could understand and engage with an older person. They said, “We have data.” When they reach fifty, they’ll know why I raised my eyebrows.
Now that advertising’s idea of the diversity it needs even includes disability, perhaps it’s time to think about including, or not excluding, age.
Here are some other people who say they agree.
Mark Tutssel, executive chairman, Leo Burnett Worldwide:
I never talk about age. I talk about experience. I think the best communicators are people who have a comprehensive understanding of human behaviour, who are sponges of life, who have the ability to bring all of those things to the table to connect to people. And experience for me is everything. If you look in other industries, like music and acting, is Mick Jagger past his sell by date? Is Anthony Hopkins past his sell by date? Is Helen Mirren? No, of course they’re not. I believe if we’re looking for diversity and variety and having all walks of life, all talents coming to the table to solve business problems, people with experience are vital. Particularly with the spending power that people over the age of fifty have today. People who really understand their mindset, their approach to life, have that ability to connect with them in fresh, new ways matter. We’re always searching for fresh, new ideas but we should be talking about the idea itself not the person who gives it. I just look at great ideas, from great people, who think in a beautifully fertile way – their ideas are still alive, still resonating with society, still youthful.
Paul Drake, director, D&AD:
D&AD’s feeling is that we need to remove all the barriers that stop great talent from operating in our agencies and those that make us unable to view the world through consumers eyes. And obviously, older women and older men have a huge spending power. And they have an incredible amount that they can offer agencies with their creative output and to shut that out feels both wrong in terms of a fairness debate but also wrong in terms of a business debate as well. So we definitely support any action that enable whoever has talent to flourish in the industry and we’ve recently just done a piece of work with Creative Equals, a lady called Ali Hanan, whose a really exceptional woman. She just received some money from the government for the Returners programme, that helps women who have between two and ten years put of the industry to get back in. A lot of their concerns were about how they would be perceived as older women, which given the amount of talent that was in the room, was thoroughly depressing – because if can harness it, there’s a huge opportunity. Otherwise, they’ll just go to another industry.
Tahaab Rais, regional head – strategy, effectiveness & intelligence at FP7/McCann MENAT:
In the Middle East, you have a lot of people from different parts and across different age groups, and pour agency specifically – McCann Worldgroup – really doesn’t have an age issue because we have people who are super-young – we have interns who are contributing to big ideas – and we have talent that comes from the older generation, who are contributing as well.
Karl Henwood, executive producer, Nylon Studios:
Being a woman in my forties, I can only hope that age, success and experience will be considered assets in the future – but it’s hard to know. We’ve all seen a lot of mergers and production budget cuts and it seems that the more senior people with the bigger salaries are the first to go. Quite often it’s their experience and knowledge that is what saves clients and agencies time and money, far more than the cost of their salaries.