Diary: Speaker's corner

"The board and I have decided we don't like the colour of your eyes." Perhaps you remember the compelling ad, written by David Abbott, for the trade union Unison? Today, that famous headline could so easily be adapted to read: "The date of your birth."

How else can you explain the statistic quoted by Andrew Cracknell, from IPA research, which suggests there are fewer than 500 people aged over 50 employed full-time in the advertising industry. Meanwhile, in the real world, more than 50,000 Baby Boomers turn 50 every single month. Collectively, they now account for 40 per cent of all UK consumer spending and 80 per cent of all private wealth in this country.

Despite these unchallenged facts, the advertising and marketing industry continues to worship at the altar of youth. Estimates suggest that only 10 per cent of the double-digit media billions invested in advertising and marketing every year is directed toward mature consumers. This year, according to the Office of National Statistics, the over-60s outnumbered the under-16s in the UK for the first time. This trend will continue as the twin-peak post-war Baby Boom moves through the population - and be aware, there is no bulge behind the bulge. Yet those best qualified to understand its subtleties and to exploit its growing commercial potential are systematically being squeezed out, put out to grass or, as the euphemism would have it, let go.

This knee-jerk opportunism may save on the monthly salary bill and also improve the big picture short-term, but looking beyond the end of the financial director's nose, it could mean losing on both the swings and the roundabouts in the not-too-distant future. The obsession with youth means experience is being written off, knowledge is being discounted and informed opinion is being excluded. As the over-50s are the only growing demographic in the real world, it's surely ageist nonsense to see them decline in numbers in advertising. It is a waste of proven talent. It could become a criminal one if new legislation is introduced with teeth, not dentures.

- Got an axe to grind? E-mail us at campaign@haynet.com.


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