Sparrow’s Nest: The importance of keeping experienced talent in the industry

Sparrow's Nest

Just 5% of agency personnel are over 50, a really disturbing stat

Sparrow’s Nest readers’ topic: The advertising industry is a young people’s game with the average age in a recent industry survey at 32 years with the majority female. How do we encourage older people to stay within the industry and what more can we do to retain this important talent segment?

OK, don’t get me started on the ageism of our industry and I think it’s only got worse. This is a significant issue and with the recent flexibility in working conditions from home or anywhere, plus the current talent shortage, you would expect the industry to really value and embrace the older age group.

But no, we still want digital natives that supposedly get digital and fresh perspectives of the younger generation.

If we are serious about real inclusion and diversity, which I totally support, what about the influential perspective of a 40-plus individual that understands the buying habits of the senior demographic and has the wisdom and experience needed to wisely inform strategic direction and invest our client’s valuable money?

Across the world, just 5% of agency personnel are over 50, a really disturbing stat.

Sparrow’s Nest: Agencies need to jump on board

Some creative agencies are making welcomed initiatives, I loved Thinkerbell’s Thrive@55 project a few years ago for interns 55 and over. Dentsu in the UK has partnered with 55/Redefined to tackle ageism and improve representation in the over 50-year-olds. I encourage all agencies here to jump on board and do more to address this issue – not tomorrow, but now.

A great research report from WPP AUNZ, Secrets & Lies – Ageless and Booming, highlighted that 50+ spend $40 billion more than millennials and GenX each year on consumer goods online and they spend an average of 27 hours online each week.

However once again less than 5% of briefs received from marketers specifically target the over 50s. So much potential is untapped and ignored by agency people who can’t relate or live in a precious bubble in an affluent suburb distanced from the real world.

Also, so many of the cultural aspects and benefits/perks of an agency are directed at the average employee in their early thirties … what about the benefits that would keep and entice a 50+ person? They might be extremely different and surely worth the effort to explore and implement. I know I would definitely prefer free financial planning, physio advice, or family medical insurance assistance versus free daily breakfast, my birthday off, or an extra doona day.

Financial targets and budgets don’t always help an older employee when the CFO is purely reviewing an excel spreadsheet with high salary lines under the microscope. The depth of experience, invaluable client IP, and knowing the internal systems/processes inside out plus sharing that intel with the young team doesn’t always come into a simplistic cost evaluation.

Sometimes it’s just easier to retrench an older employee due to financial cutbacks, but the real cost of replacing them is unquantified. The agency world is harsh and sometimes unfair where grey hair, wisdom, loyalty, and experience don’t always get the credit or value it deserves.

It’s so frustrating that our industry in a time of a talent crisis doesn’t do more to nurture, retain and attract the older diverse age group of talent who have real-world experience, expertise, knowledge, and wisdom. Plus, this incredibly valuable older group wants to share their knowledge and would love to coach/mentor and play it forward.

I hope I don’t sound like a cranky old white guy, but please, talent over 50 have incredible skills that we should value more than ever and we must stamp out ageism in the agency world now.

Read more Sparrow’s Nest columns here.

In addition to Sparrow’s Nest, Mediaweek contributing editor Greg Graham also compiles the monthly Agency Hot List. Don’t miss the August edition of the Hot List next week.
The legendary Sydney diner can also be found filing the Birdman in the Bistro column monthly in Mediaweek.

Greg encourages Sparrow’s Nest reader feedback and topic ideas. Contact the Birdman via [email protected].

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