The agency world has always been a young man/woman’s game. At least Outside London, if you’re not a director (or equally senior) by your late 30s you might as well forget any plans for world domination and seeing your profile in Campaign.
Which is, obviously, a rather stupid situation. Yes, the work-hard-play-hard agency lifestyle demands youthful amounts of energy and yes, many agency types are burnt out / hacked off / opting out / busy bringing up a family by the time they hit their 40s. But thanks to a combination of AdLand’s worship at the fountain of youth and the current economic climate (younger often also meaning cheaper), the industry risks missing out on a deep talent pool.
Not only are talented 40plus individuals from other industries unlikely to move into ours (bringing their fresh perspectives with them), we’re excluding our own as well. I know a recently redundant Suit with a wealth of experience in almost every sector and media imaginable, loved equally by his clients and almost anyone he’s ever worked with who can’t so much as get an interview at the moment. The problem? He’s 50ish.
There seems to be a similar issue with the Cult of Digital. There are a lot of late adapter agency types out there diligently doing their day-to-day job who won’t be offered a better opportunity until they can show that they know their foursquare from their flickr.
Perhaps as an industry we need to be a little more open minded about who we employ and promote – after if we all looked the same, thought the same and had the same experience we’d all come up with similar ideas. Innovative thinking won’t come out of from habitual hiring policies. We may need to start recruiting more on attitude and aptitude than experience and date of birth.