Monthly Archives: July 2017

Ageism in advertising is out of control

In most industries you care to think of, experience is considered a jolly good thing.

He’s a highly experienced surgeon, yoiu’re in safe hands with him. She’s a hugely experienced lawyer, she’s the best person to have in your corner. He’s a massively experienced electrician, there’s not a problem he doesn’t know how to fix. And so on.

But in advertising the reverse is true. Ageism isn’t just rampant it’s virtually compulsory.

You can have won a million top awards, you can have solved major marketing issues for some of the biggest, most famous brand in the world. You might have turned  companies around with your input, saving hundreds of jobs along the way.

But if you’re over 50, maybe even 45 — and in the digital arena, over 13 – you’re considered waaaaaay past your sell-by date.

The thinking goes that you can’t possibly have any great ideas if you’re ‘old’. You suddenly forget how to write fantastically persuasive copy or art direct a stunningly innovative and memorable tv campaign.

I wish I could rationalise this bizarre situation on the basis of money. Along the lines of: “Clearly, more experienced people should be paid more. They work faster and produce better results. They’re better with clients and have a much better insight into planning and business generally. So they deserve the big bucks but we can’t afford them so we’re going to have to compromise on quality and pay less.”

At least this has a sort of logic to it. But, actually it isn’t this.

There’s simply an unwritten law in advertising and marketing, now, that anyone over a certain age is Too Old. They won’t have good ideas. Their ideas will be somehow old-fashioned. They don’t understand digital communications. They’re not edgy enough. I’ve heard all these and more.

The ultimate irony is that the people who spend the most money, who buy the most stuff, are not 22 year olds that work in advertising.

They’re middle-aged people. Cars, tellies, Sky subscriptions, food, drink, financial services — the majority of sales in these marketplaces are down to people in their forties, fifties and above. The people with the dosh.

So ask yourself, who is more in touch with the mindset, the motivations, the day-to-day family issues this group faces? The 22 year old or the 52 year old?

And before someone pipes up with “Ah yes, but if you get people onboard with your brand when they’re young, they’ll stay with you for life”, this is utter tosh and has been disproven over and over again. Brand loyalty barely exists in any meaningful way and an empty shelf, a higher price or a disappointing experience will have us switching to another brand in a heartbeat.

The issue is even more profound with B2B marketing. (I’d never give my junior teams any B2B or internal comms work if I could avoid it.)

Kids, on the whole, just don’t understand business and management in any meaningful way. Ask them to explain the difference between revenue and profit and their eyes glaze over.

Trust them with your cornflakes campaign, by all means, but leave the serious stuff to the grown-ups.