Last week, Saatchi & Saatchi Australia launched a new commercial for Toyota Kluger. It was a story to make every parent smile. Its human humour revolved around avoiding telling the kids they weren’t included in the planned car trip getaway. What made it relatable for me though, was the story’s grandma. The grandma looked like the grandmas I know, not an advertising stereotype of which there are two – the classic dumpy, happy 85-year-old and the more recent faded blonde with a silver-haired husband.
I know – there are old school grandmas out there. 60 is the new 40 hasn’t touched every woman in the world. Yet. The point is that the casting of this grandma had been thought about. The agency had made an effort to offer some real diversity into the presentation of an older person. That’s something we haven’t really seen in advertising so far.
I had to ask Saatchi & Saatchi Australia chief creative officer, Mike Spirkovski, about it. Ageism – actually the lack of interest in dealing with ageism – in the creative industry is something The Stable has been trying to put right for years. This ad is one giant leap. Maybe one day there might even be an ad which is not for an end-of-life product that actually talks to older people directly. Imagine brands tapping into a sector that’s cashed-up, rediscovering everything life and work have to offer now that the kids are gone and actively looking for new things to try. [Candide McDonald: ed]:
Here’s what Spirkovski told me:
The Stable: Please tell me about the casting decisions involved in your Toyota Kluger commercial (notably the grandma) and Saatchi’s attitude to casting.
Mike Spirkovski: In general casting is a critical part of the production process for all our client partners and showing a true representation of Australia is key. Toyota is one of Australia’s most popular automotive brands and is driven my more Australians than any other, making it incredibly diverse and for all. This in itself makes casting a little bit easier since it’s such a popular choice. Like any casting process, we start with the script and a very detailed casting brief which is written by the creative team. This is sent to our clients for approval, then off to the production company producers and directors and off to the casting agents. In the case for Toyota Kluger, we had a young, modern and diverse family which resulted in the appropriate grandma.
TS: Can you tell me a little bit about the woman you cast. What made her just right?
MS: Some brands and ad campaigns do represent grandmothers as stereotypical most of the time, but not all have to look like Mrs Doubtfire. In the real world grandmas are also modern and progressive older women who are proud of who they are and care about themselves just like anyone else. That’s who we thought was right for Toyota and in particular really matched her daughter playing mum in the spot. There really wasn’t much more to it than finding a true representation and fit for the average Kluger family.
TS: There is still no interest in marketing directly to older people (except for end-of-life products). Are brands missing out?
MS: I believe brands need to be mindful of their core audience and focus on the growth opportunities. If a specific product is used or desired more by an older person then they become the target audience in the campaign. It would be weird marketing end of life products to 40-year olds, just like it would be odd marketing some cool active wear primarily to 70 year olds. Not saying that a 70-year-old doesn’t wear active wear, but the majority of sales would probably be in the 40-year old range. If older people desired a specific product, I’m sure the brand would focus on them in their marketing.
TS: There are several movements and tools to promote commissioning women photographers and directors. What is your attitude to, and experience with, using older people?
MS: I find this conversation quite frustrating, especially in 2021, and mainly because I believe people are hired based on their talents and ability rather than who they are, what they look like, believe in, sex and age. If you look at most production companies (film and stills) you will find females represent less than 20% of their talent on offer. So, it’s no surprise that we are seeing campaigns out there to help support women and get more hired into our business daily. Similarly, if you are older and meet the criteria and job description and salary expectations, age shouldn’t matter. I find it quite arrogant when someone older says they deserve to be paid double since they are so experienced and get the job done in half the time. Experience is not the same as talent. I know 18-year olds who are astrophysicists but can’t write themselves out of a box, just like I know 70-year olds who can crack a brief in 5 minutes but the idea is average. It’s all subjective and everyone deserves a chance, but in the end, regardless of age, gender or whatever; brilliant ideas, incredible photography or breathtaking film is king and queen. That is what everyone wants to hire because that is what everyone wants to make.
TS: What do you think could be done to trigger interest in maintaining older people within the agency and even hiring older people?
MS: It’s easy for me to speak as someone in my mid-40s and as CCO of one of the best advertising brands in the world but my advice is to stay positive, relevant and learn as much as you can every single day, and most importantly never give up. Like I said earlier, if your work is constantly pushing the limits and doing what others aren’t, then you are in demand since you are super relevant, a trailblazer, and everyone wants to work with talent who can make them and their organisation look good. The moment you accept mediocrity and let the machine beat you down, it’s all over. It’s incredibly difficult to come back once you start falling behind. As an avid road cyclist, I like to use the analogy of staying up front with the group or as most know it the Peloton. The benefits are extreme, less wind resistance, easier to pedal, warmer in the cold, less stress on the body and its organs. Once you drop off or fall behind you have to work twice as hard to catch up and let me tell you it’s incredibly hard, stressful, demoralising, really messes with your mind and confidence. And it’s almost impossible to come back. So stay with the Peloton, or in business; stay relevant and just keep pushing yourself and you will be successful.