Pope Paul III, “Look lads, what we need is a really big church, something that says “we’re here to stay” maybe with some kind of freestanding dome, but like, the biggest in all Christendom.” Cardinal 1, “Good idea your holiness, but who can we get to design such a glory?” Pope Paul III, “Well, there’s only one man for the job really, let’s get Michelangelo he did a nice job on that chapel ceiling.” Cardinal 2. “You mean Michelangelo Buonnaroti sire? But he’s 70… “ Pope Paul III, “A mere whipper-snapper around here then, he’s still the best around when it comes to new ideas, to say nothing of being a dab hand at a bit of painting and decorating, go drag his Zimmer frame over here.”
Age and experience have long been venerated across civilisations. Shamans, medicine men and oracles, our spiritual and political leaders have come from those who have lived long enough to garner wisdom and experience. Even in an age when 40 is the new 20 we still turn to our elders for their received wisdoms. As Barrack Obama lowers his much-heralded backside into the Oval office chair he’s being lauded as a youngster but in reality he’s closer to 50 than 40. There are, of course, exceptions that prove the rule. Adland for instance has its own take on the idea.
“Top creative agency with Blue Chip clients is looking for a Senior Team. Four years + experience.
Requirements: Professional, very strong conceptual skills, producing outstanding award-winning creative work. Must have Diploma Art Directing/Graphic Design and great track record. Details: Remuneration: R25k CTC Please submit CV and portfolio.”
Notice anything unusual? No? That, unfortunately, is because there isn’t anything. For several years now local adland has laboured under the ridiculous belief that someone who has been in the business for “four years +” can be classed as “Senior”. Which effectively means that someone who leaves college at 20 is a “Senior” at 24+. Senior is, of course, Latin for elder
The underlying problem here is that advertising is projected as a “young person’s game”. This has been a fallacy perpetuated by managements who seek to control their staff and believe that “keeping them hungry,” sometimes quite literally, is the way to make them push harder and throw themselves into every new project. There are agencies out there that resemble kindergartens. Specially geared to the young, with beanbags, bean bags I ask you? Obviously It's deliberately difficult, if not downright dangerous, for anyone over 30 to try to get up from these things.
They use the out dated argument that young people know how to talk to young people. A great idea when your core consumer base is young, but as we all know we have an ever-aging population that is continuing to spend as it grows. Yet still agencies cling to this facile concept that young brains think up fresher ideas. Something that would have surprised Goethe and Simone de Beauvoir until their last scribble and I dare say Mr De Bono will still be thinking laterally until he’s finally horizontal.
Luckily there may be light in the middle of the tunnel. In the U.K. leading creative agency Bartle Bogle & Hegarty, (BBH), have joined forces with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, (IPA), to launch a campaign highlighting ageism in adland. Based upon an extensive qualitative and quantative report instituted by the IPA and carried out across the UK business the campaign was created to react to the feeling amongst many advertising employees that the current age bias is strongly detrimental to the industry. The report highlights the view that "older people are not always as technologically astute as younger people, nor are they so willing to put in the extra hours in the evenings and at weekends". However this is easily counteracted by “the breadth of experience and emotional intelligence of older staff.” The results show that 72% of respondents to the survey agree that agencies risk becoming out of touch to what appeals to older consumers.
Hamish Pringle, IPA director general, said: "Adland is way out of line in terms of age. For a range of reasons; burnout, work and life balance, and increasingly commonly, pressure on agency payrolls, agencies shed the over 40s relentlessly. This results in a massive loss of valuable experience and is a real cost to clients."
The IPA's Agency Census 2005, published in January, found that 48.1% of employees were aged 30 or under, with another 33.4% in the 31-40 age bracket -- meaning more than four out of every five agency staff are aged 40 or under. The average age for agency employees is 33; only 13.6% are 41 to 50, with a mere 5% over 50.
There are very few places in which age is so obviously used against us in society as in adland, although the actor Rupert Everett believes he has a similar problem with ageism. Now he’s 47 the gay actor is worried he may never find a long-term boyfriend because he thinks nobody would want to date a man his age and no longer wants to meet potential partners in bars. He says, "Unfortunately, I am single. But I'm too exhausted for anything else and being gay is a young man's game. Now no one wants me. Being gay and being a woman has one big thing in common, which is that we both become invisible after the age of 42.
"Who wants a gay 50-year-old? No one, let me tell you. I could set myself on fire in a gay bar, and people would just light their cigarettes from me. I don't want to be carried out of a club wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and a cap on the wrong way round when I'm 70, but I would like to settle down a bit. Maybe with a partner."
I should say I mentioned this to a few of my gay acquaintances down the Red Room last week and they were collectively of the opinion that if I could get hold of the address where Mr Everett sups then they’d be right along to help dissuade him of beliefs.
Personally, although I’ve been loitering in the corridors of adland for a fair while now, and I’m looking forward another couple of laps around the block yet, as George Bernard Shaw once put it “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.” Ian franks; CV ~ age 19 ¼