Should age come be­fore beauty?

Di­ver­sity may be at the top of the ad­ver­tis­ing agenda but the is­sue of ageism has been con­spic­u­ous by its ab­sence, Ni­cola Kemp writes

Campaign Middle East - - News -

Di­ver­sity may be a hot topic in in­ter­na­tional ad­ver­tis­ing, but the is­sue of ageism is con­spic­u­ous in its ab­sence from the agenda.

“If you are made re­dun­dant over 40, it is very dif­fi­cult to get an­other role” Diana Tick­ell, Nabs

If youth is wasted on the young, then age and ex­pe­ri­ence are in dan­ger of be­ing wasted on the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try. Di­ver­sity may top the mar­ket­ing agenda but age is the fi­nal taboo at a time when, all too of­ten, youth is mis­taken for a short­cut to dig­i­tal ex­per­tise. From ac­tively hid­ing their age to in­vest­ing in costly and in­va­sive cos­metic pro­ce­dures, those in the cre­ative in­dus­tries of­ten view the pass­ing years not through the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of skills and ex­pe­ri­ence but as a source of fear and po­ten­tial re­jec­tion.

Data from the UK’s in­dus­try body IPA, con­firms that the cliché that “ad­ver­tis­ing is a young per­son’s game” is more than just a lazy stereo­type. The av­er­age age of em­ploy­ees at all IPA mem­ber agen­cies is 33.7, a fig­ure that has re­mained static since 2009 and prompts the ques­tion: “Where does ev­ery­one go?” Is it time to broaden the on­go­ing de­bate around “the war for tal­ent” to tackle the in­her­ent ageism that is un­pin­ning this great ex­o­dus from the in­dus­try?

In or­der to shine a light on this of­ten ne­glected is­sue, and MEC con­ducted a UK-in­dus­try-wide sur­vey to un­cover the ex­pe­ri­ences and is­sues sur­round­ing ageism in mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing. “Di­ver­sity is Cam­paign im­por­tant in all of its forms and age is one of those ar­eas that needs to be ad­dressed and needs more at­ten­tion,” Ja­son Dormieux, chief ex­ec­u­tive of MEC UK, ex­plains.

The study re­vealed that al­most 80 per cent of re­spon­dents agree that the in­dus­try comes across as ageist. Mean­while, sep­a­rate con­sumer-fac­ing re­search shows that 31 per cent of the pub­lic would like to see more older peo­ple in ad­ver­tis­ing.

The rhino in the cor­ner

Robert Campbell, founder of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R who cur­rently runs High50, a life­style brand for the over-50s, says that age is the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try’s “big rhino in the cor­ner”. He ex­plains: “We are all go­ing to get old, but ev­ery­one is in love with youth.”

Ac­cord­ing to Campbell, the in­dus­try’s dis­mis­sive ap­proach to the value of ex­pe­ri­ence is symp­to­matic of a wider shift away from cre­ativ­ity. He says: “We used to be a busi­ness that un­der­stood and cel­e­brated cre­ativ­ity, but now we are anti-cre­ative as an in­dus­try. The gen­er­a­tion be­low me speaks the lan­guage of cre­ativ­ity but the maths class has over­taken the art class.”

Campbell be­lieves that the dig­i­tal cul­ture the in­dus­try has col­luded in cre­at­ing is fright­ened of cre­ative ideas as it is driven by an over­whelm­ing de­sire to weigh and mea­sure any given ap­proach. “Over the last 25 years, cre­ative peo­ple have been sidelined,” he adds.

A cre­ative used-by date

Shilpen Sa­vani, a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion and em­ploy­ment law spe­cial­ist at Gun­ner­cooke, says that the ad­ver­tis­ing and me­dia in­dus­tries as a whole are not deal­ing well with the is­sue of age dis­crim­i­na­tion. He ex­plains: “In­no­va­tion is val­ued above ex­pe­ri­ence and that has cre­ated an im­bal­ance and a fo­cus on change. There is a mis­con­cep­tion that age and in­no­va­tion are seen as mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.” Ac­cord­ing to Sa­vani, age has long been re­garded as some­thing that is unattrac­tive and “there is a greater aware­ness and ac­cep­tance in the in­dus­try where in­di­vid­u­als have an in­vis­i­ble sell-by date”.

A swathe of com­pa­nies in the in­dus­try are still fall­ing foul of leg­is­la­tion by down­siz­ing or re­struc­tur­ing in an at­tempt to mask un­fair se­lec­tion on the grounds of age. Draw­ing com­par­i­son with how com­pa­nies han­dled race dis­crim­i­na­tion 20 years ago, Sa­vani be­lieves the in­dus­try has a fair way to go to tackle ageism. Al­though some have suc­cess­fully tack­led dis­crim­i­na­tion or ne­go­ti­ated a set­tle­ment over the past 10 years, Sa­vani says these of­fers, while sig­nif­i­cantly above the statu­tory min­i­mum, “have al­most halved”.

It is a shift that, ac­cord­ing to UK in­dus­try sup­port body Nabs’ chief ex­ec­u­tive Diana Tick­ell, has led to a wave of in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als aged over 40 com­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tion for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. She ex­plains: “If you are made re­dun­dant over 40, it is very dif­fi­cult to get an­other role

and we are see­ing the money run out quite quickly.” From per­son to dat­a­point The un­com­fort­able fact re­mains that as the in­dus­try con­tin­ues to suf­fer from squeezed mar­gins, the value of the individual to any given or­gan­i­sa­tion is of­ten re­duced to a dat­a­point when the in­evitable re­struc­tur­ing and re­dun­dancy pro­cesses be­gin. Dave Buon­aguidi, chief cre­ative of­fi­cer at Crispin Porter & Bo­gusky Lon­don, says the in­dus­try is in dan­ger of cre­at­ing a zero-sum game: “For most peo­ple, it is just about num­bers and peo­ple are re­duced to a statis­tic. When you cut 30 per cent of an agency, or cut out the high­est earn­ers ahead of a po­ten­tial sale, this of­ten dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pacts older staff. We’ve cre­ated an ex­traor­di­nar­ily greedy in­dus­try.”

It is an ap­proach that Buon­aguidi be­lieves is rob­bing not only the in­dus­try of some bril­liant tal­ent but also the next gen­er­a­tion of creatives of the in­valu­able men­tor­ing that ex­pe­ri­enced col­leagues can pro­vide. He says: “We need to think more about peo­ple; cul­ture is not about sim­ply say­ing we do fun stuff. It is easy to put your val­ues on pa­per but we need to do some­thing more than ask: how do I make money for my­self?”

The rise of the cult of the en­tre­pre­neur, and the emerg­ing gen­er­a­tion of mil­len­ni­als who view their own suc­cess, or lack thereof, through the lens of Mark Zucker­berg, are driv­ing a gen­er­a­tional schism in some cor­ners of the in­dus­try.

Brian Cooper, chief cre­ative of­fi­cer at Oliver, be­lieves there re­mains an ad­dic­tion to youth in the in­dus­try. He ex­plains: “There is a real se­duc­tion around youth cul­ture, and ev­ery­one wants to be a part of that.”

This dis­crim­i­na­tion has been bol­stered by the growth of dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Cooper ex­plains: “Dig­i­tal has cre­ated its own cul­ture and what you find at agen­cies is there are a lot of peo­ple who don’t get it. It fos­ters a cul­ture of col­lab­o­ra­tion, is very flat and fos­ters dif­fer­ent ways of work­ing.” An at­ti­tu­di­nal lag This is not to say that age is a bar­rier to em­brac­ing these new ways of work­ing. When cul­ture is of­ten viewed as the cor­ner­stone of suc­cess­ful cre­ative work, fos­ter­ing one that sup­ports di­verse tal­ent, which em­braces age, is viewed by some of the in­dus­try’s lead­ing creatives as a busi­ness im­per­a­tive.

Vicki Maguire, ex­ec­u­tive cre­ative di­rec­tor at Grey Lon­don, warns that any busi­ness that turns its back on peo­ple be­cause of a num­ber is los­ing out on a huge pool of tal­ent: “I’ve been in agen­cies where the old boys’ club ruled but it was about think­ing and cul­ture. I used to have to stand out­side my old cre­ative di­rec­tor’s of­fice wait­ing to show him work while he was at The Ivy talk­ing about the good old days, but he wasn’t even that old – it was about at­ti­tude and en­ergy.”

Just as the in­dus­try’s con­sumer seg­men­ta­tion model has evolved,

“Peo­ple are re­duced to a statis­tic. We’ve cre­ated an ex­traor­di­nar­ily greedy in­dus­try” Dave Buon­aguidi, CP&B Lon­don

Har­vey Ni­chols: Adam & Eve/DDB’s cam­paign fea­tur­ing a 100-year-old model showed that age is no bar­rier – a les­son the ad in­dus­try has seem­ingly yet to heed

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