“If you are seen as old you are fucked. It’s so ageist and so terrible, it’s unbelievable.” That was the bold opening statement at yesterday’s Changing The Ratio from Pacific Magazines editor Julia Zaetta when asked about ageism in the communications industry.
“It’s frightening how often the word Millennials come up in my workplace with what we are doing. It drives me absolutely crazy. The sense is, if you market anywhere beyond the Millennials, or above the Millennials, you are going to be seen as old.”
Zaetta was speaking on a panel in Sydney yesterday at B&T’s Changing the Ratio event. She was joined by a panel of industry veterans to discuss the challenges of being over 50 in an industry where the majority of execs are under 35, including The Projects MD Carrie Barker, OMA CEO Charmaine Moldrich, The Nest Consultancy founder Greg Graham and moderated by Starts at 60 CEO Rebecca Wilson.
In her experience leading a creative agency, Barker said the industry is constantly seeking the dollars of Millennials and disregarding older demographics.
“Some 98 per cent of the briefs that we deal with at The Projects are targeted at Millennials. There are more people over 45-60 and people over 40 have more money than Millennials, so it doesn’t seem to make sense,” she said.
“I think the reason for that is the majority of the advertising industry and the majority of people in agencies and clients are under 35. They can’t contemplate that somebody in their 40s, god forbid 50s, could have money or be out seeing Post Malone or shopping at Top Shop.”
The panel agreed that the ageism present in the communications industry has led to stereotypes being portrayed in the advertising we see today, meaning brands are missing the opportunity to crack the lucrative baby boomer market.
“As an older demographic we are pigeonholed. We have ads targeting bowl cancer and retirement. When a campaign does talk to me, let’s say for a travel company, it’s a couple jumping off a cliff, holding hands, smiling in white pants. It’s so annoying,” Barker said.
“As an industry, because people in the industry are so young, we can’t see beyond that.”
Graham, better known as Sparrow, said it’s a shortcoming that the industry doesn’t recognise the wealth of knowledge the over 50 demographic has to offer.
“Recently when I left my job, hundreds of people congratulated me for my retirement. Literally hundreds. I’m not retiring. I still have stuff to give. I can still make a difference. I still have the energy and the passion for what I do,” he said.
“It’s a crying shame that people automatically thought I was done. What a crying shame that the wisdom isn’t valued. I want to share my knowledge. I want to help people.”
When asked how ageism can be combatted in the industry, Moldrich addressed the crowd and said we need to act together for future generations.
“In 2056, those of you in the audience who are in your 20s or 30s, you will be our generation. In 2056 in NSW, 42 per cent of you will be over 60. So, if you think of the majority of the population getting there, who is actually going to do the work if you aren’t employing 60-year-olds?
“Ageism is a universal issue and it takes a really long time to change behaviour and so we need to start now. We need to start having those conversations now.”
Let the conversation begin, adland.