In ad agencies, grey hairs are something to cherish
A view from Jeremy Lee

In ad agencies, grey hairs are something to cherish

Perhaps it's a paradox that an industry that is sometimes so obsessed with slavishly chasing the young and the new and the unproven quite rightly still remembers, honours and venerates the old, the established and, more crucially, the departed. But it's also a relief.

What does seem a shame and a missed opportunity (a tragic waste of talent and experience, even) is the way that those in the middle or latter years of their careers are still all too frequently mocked, discarded or – just as bad – ignored. Their wealth of knowledge and years of experience is something that the writer and producer Paul Burke wrote about so memorably in these pages earlier this year – the older you get, the better you get, he argued.

It seems a real shame that, according to IPA figures, only 5 per cent of UK agency staff are over the age of 50, putting the industry on a par with modelling and sport (although you wouldn’t know it looking around the bar of the Carlton this week).

The brilliant Kate Stanners and Paul Silburn probably won’t thank me for describing them as in the middle or latter years of their careers, but the fact is that they help push up the average age of the creative department at Saatchi & Saatchi and, indeed, of the industry as a whole. And amen for that – long may they continue to do so.

Their recent promotion to chief creative officers with group roles and responsibilities (along with an elevated position for the slightly more youthful Richard Huntington) therefore shows a remarkably enlightened and progressive approach to agency and talent management. It also allows the talented younger blood Rob Potts and Andy Jex, the pair behind much of Saatchi & Saatchi’s most celebrated work, to get the recognition and the leg-up that they too deserve. I wonder how many other agencies would have been smart enough to do the same?

Stanners and Silburn's recent promotion shows a remarkably enlightened and progressive approach

For Stanners and Silburn, the new roles mean that they will be able to sprinkle their considerable creative magic, acquired over many years at the coalface, and add a dash of flourish across the expanded Saatchi & Saatchi group of companies, most notably the digital business Outside Line that was purchased in 2012. They can also inspire and encourage those younger than them.

Simply because the pair are, dare I point out, a touch over the age of 30 (and, who knows, maybe even over 40), their relevance has not diminished and nor has their ability to constantly adapt to new channels or provide an expert eye to improve the creative output, on whatever platform it takes.

As Burke pointed out, advertising should always be a young and vibrant business, and cherishing and learning from the seasoned pros is surely part of this.