Where has all the valuable experience gone?

As Campaign has stated, “If youth is wasted on the young, then age and experience are in danger of being wasted on the advertising industry.”
We have often heard that “advertising is a young person’s game”, but this is a careless stereotype. The Financial Times points out that David Ogilvy was 39 when he wrote his first ad and he spent the next 25 years actively involved in creating great advertising.

The average age of employees in design and advertising agencies is 33.7, so where has all the respected and valuable experience gone? Diversity is important in all of its forms, race, gender and age. ‘The industry’s disdainful approach to the value of experience has created an imbalance that is symptomatic of an innovative approach being valued above experience, creating a misconception that age and innovation are seen as mutually exclusive’, says Shilpen Savani, employment law specialist at gunnercooke, UK. Unfortunately this is robbing not only the industry of some brilliant talent but the next generation of creatives of the invaluable mentoring that experienced colleagues can provide. Training, coaching and personal development of young creatives is crucial. As we gain experience which comes with age, we need to be continually learning, delivering and giving back. In South Africa, the historical imbalances that need rectifying, imply a crucial focus on mentoring and guidance. This guidance is not limited to input on a creative concept or layout, but how to think strategically, how to ask the right questions, how to build client relationships and even how to run a business.

The best output comes from teams. Multifunctional and multigenerational teams with a variety of skills and experience. The young creative’s ideas and interpretation based on their life experiences, is so much more powerful when channelled and guided by the strategic and creative experience of people who have been in the industry for 20 to 30 years.

I spoke about Millennials in a previous article of mine, Millennials are reshaping society. At the early stage of their careers, they are audacious and keen and their experience of the world is different. Millennials are helping agencies meet complex client needs in an ever-changing, non-linear digital economy. You learn and grow when you work with people who are different to you, different in skill, experience and approach. It challenges you and can even cause you to change your way of thinking. A multi-generational workforce has the advantage of creating professional environments that are rich with experience and maturity as well as youthful spirit and technological savvy.
Campaign also tells us that across the WPP network, the proportion of workers aged 20 to 29 has decreased from 38% in 2011 to less than 35% in 2016. It is a trend that suggests a flattening of the group’s age profile as the workforce becomes more evenly distributed among the age brackets. Frances Illingworth, global recruitment director at WPP, says: “I am a great supporter of having a large group of people who have maturity, are role models and can mentor others.”
Clearly, as an older creative, it is about attitude and energy. It is about learning and application, executing campaigns, not only directing, working hard and keeping up with trends. Complacency is the real enemy, not age.

Good creatives should be able to put themselves into the mindset of any target segment. We do not need 8 year old girls to come up with ideas for Barbie campaigns. But we do need to know our customer, their pain points, their challenges, the channels that best reach them and the messages and formats that they best respond to. And this is where teamwork comes in, a team of young, acquisitive ideas fused with the guidance of experience. That’s when magic happens!

Campaign – Nicola Kemp
Financial Times