what’s with all this obsession with cool (and by extension, youth)?

Sometimes, when I meet someone at a party and they find out I work in advertising (and especially once I explain what a Planner does) a flicker of surprise crosses their face.  I suppose I don’t seem the type, perhaps like someone more likely to be a teacher or accountant.

You see, I’m not cool.  I don’t have an edgy haircut or wear clothes that hover on the narrow line between ‘cutting edge fashion’ and ‘what the heck is she wearing’.  I’m not into bands that haven’t signed a record deal yet, underground clubs, NHS glasses or Guatemalan street food and I can’t write code.  In short, it’s a wonder they let me into the APG.

Ok, I might have made a few sweeping generalisations there but I think the outside world’s view of what AdLand and its people are like might have rubbed off on the industry itself in some kind of self-perpetuating cycle – I actually saw an agency MD wearing guyliner in the local regional newspaper recently.

And I’m not sure that all this Hipstering is actually a good thing.  Hip and cool seems to be equated by this industry with youth, the general feeling seeming to be that if you’re over 45 you can’t possibly have anything of value to contribute.  So for anyone middle aged who hasn’t made it far enough up the agency tree to have enough equity for age not to matter, the future looks pretty rubbish.

I’ve blogged about the age issue before, but it appears that the problem extends beyond agencies into the marketing departments of clients too.  I recently caught up with an expert in marketing professional services brands who left their role with one of the big accountants after being “revered by the partners but dismissed by everyone under 30 who couldn’t understand why skills and experience might matter”.

I’m not saying that creativity and individualism don’t matter, of course they’re the lifeblood of any decent agency.  But perhaps we need to get better at recognising that individuality and creativity comes in all shapes, sizes, clothing and age brackets.  And that whatever challenges an agency might meet, someone who has been round the block a few times might well have met something similar before.

4 thoughts on “what’s with all this obsession with cool (and by extension, youth)?

  1. Ageism is not limited to particular vocations. I am- or was- in human (inhumane) resources. I’ve interviewed with and been rejected by some of the best employers in three states. Even in my mid 40s I was hired 95% of the time when I landed in person interviews; since turning 50 I may as well be invisible. I misplaced my most recent rejection letter, as soon as I locate it I’m responding to the manager with a promise to file an EEOC complaint. I know it’s an exercise in futility but having responded a dozens of them when I was gainfully employed I know it will be a pain in the ass for the person doing the job for which I was interviewed. Karma’s a bitch, I hope everyone who engages in ageist practices ends up wearing my shoes for nearly a decade.

  2. As a 53 year old who STARTED in advertising 20 months ago (audible gasp) I’m not only the ‘oldest guy in the room’, I’m the oldest guy in the agency. Remarkably, the 20 and 30-somethings seem to value my input – as does my 40-something CEO. Who says the age of miracles has passed???

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