Everyone “Old” Is Cool Again

In April, Ryan Wallman wrote a great piece on the premise that discriminating against older employees in marketing and advertising is leading to missed opportunities and lost revenue for clients. Without a doubt, this conversation needs to be moved forward, and the next key point is that, in practice, the benefits of investing in experience outweigh the short-term savings of working with greener talent.

Let’s start with some basics. There is only one reason we create advertising, marketing and branded content: to help our clients move people to buy things. Getting to make creative that is simple, beautiful, clever and engaging is the icing on the cake.

If the goal is for people to buy things (whether those things are products, services or experiences), doesn’t logic dictate that we should engage the people who have the money to buy the things? Statistically speaking, those people are not millennials—which is unfortunate not only for millennials, but also for agencies and brands that spend too much time trying to target this coveted, but often cash-strapped, group.

According to the Federal Reserve Board and other sources, baby boomers account for more than half of consumer spending, control 70% of disposable income and also have access to a boatload of credit. Yet only about 5% of U.S. advertising is even aimed at people over 50 years old.

Now, keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at advertising, agencies and ageism. If you work in an advertising agency and you are 40, you are “old,” and I’m not exaggerating. While many people in many professions—medicine, law and finance, for example—are lauded for their experience and (dare I say?) wisdom as they advance in years, advertising punishes the older demographic, and women in this age group are penalized even more severely.

Don’t believe me? Roll into an advertising agency and take a guess at the average age of its employees. You’ll likely see very few, if any, gray hairs. Agencies continue to promote their diverse work environments—but shouldn’t experience also be a factor in measuring how diverse your agency is?

That’s not to say that younger people aren’t valuable members of the team, because they absolutely are. Regardless of age, each employee brings his or her own talents and strengths and should be compensated accordingly.

And there’s the rub (or at least part of it). Too many agencies shy away from immensely talented and seasoned applicants because they can’t see past the commensurate-with-experience salaries.

According to ad veteran Cindy Gallop, these agencies “don’t understand that experience and expertise are incredibly time- and cost-efficient, and that they could be making huge amounts more money by hiring, promoting, valuing and retaining older employees.”

The return on investment in older talent is immediate as an agency taps into those employees’ expertise. And—here is the bonus—that ROI continues to compound as junior team members have the opportunity to inherit knowledge and expertise by working with their more seasoned counterparts.

The bottom line, pun intended, is that agencies could be making much more money by hiring, promoting, valuing and retaining older employees.

Apologies in advance for the self-promotion. Our experience at Pace is both collective and individual: The average age of our employees is 42. Sixty percent of our employees are women; 60% of our creatives are women; and more than half of our directors and executives are women. We’ve been around the world and worked with people from all walks of life, tapping into their life experiences to tell stories that actually resonate with other people—authentic storytelling that moves people to take action and to engage with brands like they never have before.

I am often asked, “What differentiates your agency?” My first answer is that we don’t need to “be right”; we would rather do the right thing for you, your brand and your customers. Second, we really want to make a difference in your business; we’re interested in creating engaging relationships with you and your customers based on honesty and authenticity—we’re not just here to pick up a paycheck for the creative we produce. And third, we continually imagine how the experience can be better for the customer. Recently a Fortune 50 CMO responded with, “Wow, that’s refreshing!” I’ve found that most people are blown away by the simplicity and honesty of our approach.

But what often seals the deal is the fact that we have experience. People throw around the word “storytelling” as if it were a new idea, but it’s something we’ve been doing since 1973—based in journalism and asking the right questions, with dedicated, nimble teams producing amazing work in multiple formats and at all price points.

Whether the story relates to annuities for Brighthouse Financial, travel experiences for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, tech and retail writing for Verizon, dry-mouth relief products for 3M, reimagining a 118-year-old AAA, the ingenuity of 2.2 million Walmart associates, or real B2B engagement for Facebook, our experience brings results. Because of this ability to turn experience into results, 10 of our clients have been with us for 10 years or more. In fact, one of them has been with us for 20 years!

These qualities might not be Vayner-esque, hawking the latest, hottest marketing jargon and chasing flashy trends, but our years in the business have brought a bit of wisdom.

Translation: We have been in the game long enough to know what works.

So if you’re a brand that needs help recapturing lost opportunities and revenue, or if you’re an “old” and experienced agency veteran, get in touch!

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