Old age, someone with experience in such matters once said, is a
darn sight better than the alternative, although perhaps any over-45s
still cowering in the shadows of media’s middle management might not
Just take a look at our feature this week (page 30). Ninety per cent of
people who responded to this year’s NABS Monitor are concerned the ad
industry discriminates against older people, and we’re not talking
incontinence pads and zimmer-frame old. In fact, we’re not talking old
We’re talking 45 years old which, as many of my mates would testify
(albeit from the seat of a souped-up motor-bike, few remaining strands
of hair whipping in the wind and a copy of Loaded in the record bag they
now carry instead of a briefcase), is really quite young.
Media used to be quite good at valuing mature talent. Some of the media
greats of bygone years - so I’m told - were great well into what now
constitutes the retirement zone (remember Ray Morgan, Bert De Vos, Roy
Langridge? If you do, where are you?). Now the media chiefs with ’50 and
still fabulous’ badges rusting in their desk drawers are virtually
non-existent. I don’t know whether Ron de Pear’s departure from
MindShare last week had anything to do with his maturity, but it means
one less seasoned media executive on the UK scene and another blow to
the age stats.
Of course, it’s not simply a question of pricing yourself out of the
market once you’ve got a few good years under your belt. True, in times
of economic downturn, the blokes with the paypackets that bulged as much
as their guts were among the first to go, but breath-defying belt
tightening is no longer the order of the finance director.
Perhaps the problem now has to do with another sort of economic squeeze
- one from the guys at the other end of the age spectrum. Have you seen
what your agency’s paying that spotty youth with a knack for jargony
bullshit and the words new media on their 3-D business card?
Agencies are so desperate to prove their new-media credentials that
they’re scared enough to pay oodles for anyone who knows enough
buzzwords to get the rest of the agency cowering behind their desks with
a copy of the Rough Guide to the Internet.
Sadly the UK still suffers from wrinkled-face-don’t-fit syndrome and the
prominence of new media has only served to exacerbate the problem,
although perhaps the media industry of late has been so inhospitable,
draining or - indeed - lucrative that over-45s have been eager to move
Sure, if so-called oldies aren’t adaptable to change, then the industry
must move on without them. But the findings of the NABS Monitor -
although unsurprising - will surely set some clients thinking. After
all, as Jeremy Bullmore says in our feature, ’who wants an apprentice
neurosurgeon or a teenage defence counsel?’ Or a media team without a
single Grey hair?