Advertising Business Career — 07 March 2012
Some people say advertising is not an industry for “old” people…

I have now figured out why the Academy Award ceremony starts well before the sun goes down in Los Angeles. It is simply to accommodate the older talent who again walked away with the majority of Oscars this year.

It was terrific to see Christopher Plummer (82) struggle on to the stage for his recognition as Best Actor in a Supporting Role. At 77, Woody Allen was already in bed and couldn’t accept his statue for Best Original Screenplay. Martin Scorsese made a brilliant 3D film (with 5 awards) at the age of 70 and then there was Meryl Streep who won again in the year of her 62nd birthday.

The real point I would like to make is that these achievements by elders are so contrary to the attitude that one encounters in other creative industries, probably none more so than in advertising.**

Yes there will always be exceptions, but the prevailing attitude appears to be that once you have reached 50 (or there about) you should no longer aspire to a new career challenge in advertising. “Not an industry or job for old people” you often hear people say.

This leads me to a few observations:

  • The movie business demands big, fresh ideas that appeal to people worldwide.
  • A critical component in film making is the art of storytelling, why should it be different in advertising?
  • Older people are brilliant story tellers as they draw on life’s experiences.
  • In web based media it is very powerful when a brand has a credible story to tell, whether through heritage or any other unique attribute.
  • At CEO and board level, our client companies are most often controlled by leaders who offer extensive experience and wisdom in business.
  • Is a perceived lack of experience one of the advertising industry’s challenges in regaining the recognition it deserves in client board rooms?
  • Ogilvy and Bernbach built brilliant agencies at an age that today may be seen as too old for the advertising business.

It would appear that a group of respected Australian creative talent shares my concern about the advertising industry’s conservative view on industry experience. See the announcement of a new agency “Grown-ups” last week.

One cannot help but get excited about the prospect of combining the lack of fear from younger talent with the wisdom of the “oldies”.

Although investing in a silent movie about the end of silent movies was a pretty brave idea from an old bloke like Harvey Weinstein.

** Declaring self interest at the age of 61.

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(9) Readers Comments

  1. A great comfort for us veterans in the industry.

  2. I own and operate, a leading job board and online community for experienced workers over 45. Of the many stories and feedback I receive about ageist experiences from jobseekers, many come from a marketing and advertising background. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to assist many of them as there is still a reluctance within the industry to proactively recruit from this talent pool. As a Gen Y advocate and previous marketer, I find this truly amazing. Employers and marketers forget this demographic often represents a large percentage of their customer base. The importance of reflecting your customer in your workforce should not be underestimated, particularly given there are currently 7 million people over 50 in Australia constituting over 30% of the population who collectively account for over 50% of household spending. I would have thought a very attractive audience!

  3. It’s all in the mind. Never rest on your laurels. Stay paranoid. If you’re green you grow, if you’re ripe you rot. Keep learning and keep growing. Do this adn you’ll always be current…just as you are Johan. Great article. Chris

  4. A great article.

    Observation are spot on, …. and frighteningly close to home.

  5. Lucidly argued, Johan.

    Although, like Merlin the Magician, I get younger as the years pass, I can still sympathise with those facing ageist discrimination.

    Here’s a suggestion: despite being blessed with the figure of a Premier Danseur Noble and the silky skin tone of a baby deer, I am not above appearing at job interviews wearing a whalebone corset and a discreet amount of TV studio makeup. Remember: in advertising, only appearances count.

  6. Great piece written from a different perspective. Respectful towards the advertising industry, experience and knowledge will always be powerful, just like the branding of these artists.

    Gen Y is new into the arena, whereas the older market do have a sense of loyalty to certain brands. Quite hesitant towards fresh brands, generally speaking.

    Look forward to reading your other articles!

  7. Agree with the magnificent article! I am of the ‘older’ generation and have been unable to find work for ten months. Of the interviews I have attended, I seem to get down to the last two only to be told that the position is being offered to someone that can be ‘moulded in to the role’. Good grief!

    I have vast experience gained over many years in the industry and believe that maturity is a good thing, not a liability! My children are grown (no mat leave here) am independent and intelligent, so why??? or why not???

    The old saying ‘you can’t put an old head on young shoulders’ is a true reflection of we ‘greyers’.

  8. Pingback: Time for a commercial break, Advertising

  9. Pingback: 5 golden rules for a longer and more vibrant career, Advertising

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