You have a job vacancy. You have an idea in your head of the person who’s going to fill it. He (or in an increasing number of cases at last, she) is a lot like you. It’s human nature to hire people like ourselves. They might be a younger version of you, but they’re really, REALLY unlikely to be an older version of you. You don’t know what that person is like. You don’t know what it’s like to be older; you’ve never been there.
And that’s an integral problem in the creative industries – in marketing in general – today. No one (or minus the generalisation, hardly anyone) knows what it’s like to be older.
But it’s not a secret that older is a very large chunk of your audience. You can continue to pretend older audiences don’t exist or don’t matter, but you’re missing out on a lot of business. You can continue to say that data can tell you what you need to know about older people, but you’re not getting it right. You’re interpreting the data with stereotypes in your head. I could go on forever about why that doesn’t work, but it should be enough that your data already tells you it isn’t working.
This series of videos is about something else. It’s not about replacing young thinkers with old thinkers in your teams. It’s not a threat to your insistence on having “fresh” talent or brave ideas (although the idea that older people don’t have these is another stereotype). It’s about wondering (OK, I’m not wondering) if better teams would have both young and old thinkers. If experience (and having learned from making blunders) matters. The idea that you need to be as diverse as your audience seems to have sunk in. Gender, ethnicity, class background, sexual identity, ability/disability – tick. There’s a blind spot when it comes to age.
I was once asked in a job interview (I was old even then), “How do you think you would fit in with our agency?” It was a rhetorical question. So I’m hoping to reframe it. “What do you think would happen if young and old worked together?” Here’s a conversation. It’s by Ben Welsh, chief creative officer of DDB Australia, and Elaine Li, art director, DDB Sydney, about what makes great advertising, what’s good about each other’s generation and what gives them the sh**s.
I wish I’d thought of the idea, but it came from The Glue Society founder, Jonathan Kneebone.
Huge thank you to director & photographer, Adil Jain, for making this video. View his work here.