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  • Writer's pictureRichard Irvine


By Michael Constantine

When I read about the IPA’s initiative to run a conference on talent recruitment and retention I was intrigued to see what the industry was doing to address the issue of The Great Resignation. Where so many people in this (and other industries) have chosen to leave the industry.

The agenda looked fascinating - with a suitably diverse and inclusive list of speakers and panelists.

The brilliant Davis Olosuga - historian, writer, broadcaster and filmmaker was the keynote speaker. A fascinating man with much to say on the subject of inherited racial bias in our society.

As I scanned the day’s events I was heartened to see D&I in many of its forms: socio-economics, LGBTQ+, visible and invisible disabilities and of course ethnicity and racism.

A notable absence on the agenda however was that other ‘ism’.

Not racism or sexism, but ageism.

To address this I posted a question to the Workshop panel.

I quoted the finding that of the 22,000+ employees in our industry today, less than 1percent are over 60 years old. (0.8% or only 187 individuals).

Way smaller than the average of other industries.

This was met with surprise - almost shock.

(Rather surprising given that these were numbers from the IPA’s own 2020 Survey).

As the discussion developed it became obvious that there was something rather odd going on here.

It was acknowledged that there was a benefit to bringing older people into the industry. And I say into the industry, not back into the industry or keeping them in our industry.

At no point did the conversation touch on retaining this ‘older’ talent group within the MARCOM industry.

There was no acknowledgement of the value that their experience and skills developed over the years can offer to agencies (and marketers).

No mention of leveraging the benefits of multi-generational teams.

But why is this important?

Beyond the societal diversity and inclusivity angle, there's also a hard business angle - The Lost Wallet.

There is a huge, undeniable financial impact to the lack of understanding of the current ‘Boomer’ generation and the subsequent miscommunication by many brand marketers to the 55+ Third Age.

This is a very real financial opportunity that so many brands are missing.

Consider the evidence:

47% of the UK population is over 55.

£6 trillion in assets are owned by this group. (A staggering 80% of the UK’s wealth).

At their later life-stage many Third Agers have higher disposable income and the luxury of time to think about how to dispose of it.

And yet only a paltry 5% of marketing spend goes against this economically valuable, spending cohort.

And worse still, of that 5% spent on brand, product and services communications directed at them, 75% feel disconnected, misunderstood, ignored with many frankly resentful about the way they are stereotyped and talked to.

They complain about the lack of real insight, of understanding of their needs and wants.

And the mistaken grouping of their still active group with much older members of the previous (post-war) generation.

And the reason for this disconnect?

Perhaps because the average age of talent in ad agencies is 34 and 28 in media agencies?

Nobody is doubting how creative and smart these people are, or their ability to engage with any target audience.

But the stark fact remains that they are frequently failing to connect, engage, convince and attract the Third Age consumers.

And as such are missing a significant opportunity for their marketing clients.

Which raises the big question, why waste available mature talent that not only understands older consumers but empathises with the Third Age life-stage?

Why waste all this hard-earned life experience?

More to the business point, why miss the clear opportunity to tap this ‘Lost Wallet’?

‘Older’ talent can help solve the industry talent shortage, sharing their knowledge, skills, experience and wisdom…AND open up and successfully drive new revenue streams.

And for those who believe that ‘Adland’ is only for young people, that creativity and brilliant new ideas are simply a function of youthful energy, let’s remember that musicians, writers, artists, actors, architects rarely feel obliged to retire and stop creating.

Made aware of these numbers, one member of the IPA panel suggested that ageism - as another aspect of D&I - should be on the IPA agenda.

At A3A, we couldn’t agree more.

Michael Constantine is CEO of A3A

Agency for the Third Age

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