The group that adland (and diversity champions) forgot
A view from Claire Beale

The group that adland (and diversity champions) forgot

It's very fashionable to talk about diversity at the moment.

I wrote about it here only last week and predictably added numbers to my nascent Twitter base. So I’m writing about it again.

Hopefully plenty of the people who Tweeted about my column last week actually read it, thought about the issue and determined to work towards positive change. Because if diversity is nothing more than a fashion, a handy sound bite for social media, then we’re all screwed.

Anyway, right now, we’re making the most of diversity’s sticky hotness to keep pushing for a greater mix of talent in our industry. But there was a moment when I was looking through the proofs of this week’s magazine and realised I wasn’t as fair and open-minded as I hoped. I had an ignoble, prejudiced thought about some of the people featured in this issue – an ignoble, prejudiced thought of which I was instantly ashamed, but can’t deny.

Purely on the basis of their appearance, I had a flash of negativity because they didn’t look right, they didn’t conform to my ingrained expectations and, if I’m honest, my gut felt uncomfortable that they were even there on the page. You’ll find these offenders in this week’s issue. The problem with them is that they are old, or – at least – older. Which obviously shouldn’t be a problem at all. But I wasn’t expecting old when I turned to Private View. The advertising industry isn’t good on old. Yet it turns out that, among many, many other things, older people can write a very excellent Private View.

Championing a healthy mix of ages is one area of diversity that hasn’t yet become a fashionable cause, which means it’s even further off being a real, long-term ambition for this business. We have a pretty appalling record on the retention of talent through to middle age, let alone retirement. We love our iconic wise sages such as the inimitable Jeremy Bullmore or Dave Trott, both of whom remain on world-beating form; but, through the agency ranks, there’s woeful representation of older people and a depressing lack of concern for the fact.

Meanwhile, as Bob Hoffman points out in PV, too many brand communications insist on ignoring the (older) people who can actually afford to buy the product and instead focus on appealing to youngsters who won’t be in the target market for decades.

None of this is a new phenomenon, but it has become more acute as the rise of social media has fuelled the industry’s obsession with millennials (I can’t wait to never have to write that word again) and Gen Z-ers (or that one). It might not be as fashionable but, if we ignore the value of age in our industry and the spending power of older consumers, we’re screwed just as much as if we ignore the value of any other group. Tweet that.

claire.beale@haymarket.com
@clairebeale