OPINION: Perspective - It's time to recognise advertising's wise old men

Why is it that advertising people always talk in such awful cliches? I refer, of course, to Ben Langdon and Mark Wnek, neither of whom is exactly what you'd call cardboard cut-out characters.

Yet there they were (Campaign, last week) proclaiming that their core philosophy is all about "Big Advertising Ideas", or BAIs as those of us in the trade fondly refer to them.

As agency philosophies go, this is about as interesting and differentiating as hearing the Pope proclaim that he is against sin. As an aside too, what really puzzles me is why, when so many crack teams of top advertising executives, mostly armed with sniffer dogs and the latest infra-red equipment, are out there searching for BAIs, those self-same BAIs are proving so damned elusive.

But enough of this BAI nonsense. What does intrigue me, however, is the way Langdon and Wnek shied away from talking about their real USP, which is age. Sure they hinted at it, with sotto voce mutterings about experience, but it seems blindingly obvious to me that what they really have to offer is the wisdom of age. Wouldn't it be interesting if, for once, instead of talking unquantifiable bollocks about creativity and BAIs, agencies started differentiating themselves on the combined age of the names above the door?

How about this for an agency name...Two Middle-Aged Blokes Who've Been Around Quite a Lot. OK, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue or make for a snappy headline, but it certainly conveys the message.

I know that's heresy in an industry that worships at the altar of youth, but it wouldn't half be different. Equally, however, I wouldn't underestimate its strength as a selling point to clients, many of whom are, after all, exceedingly wet behind the ears when it comes to advertising and the role it can play in promoting their business or products.

Yet, in dealing with their agencies, these clients are often forced to listen to youthful account directors, whose only business achievement is in successfully negotiating the internal politics of MegaCorp Advertising Inc.

Armed with this lethal combination of naivety and arrogance, they then proceed to tell the client why Strategy X is better than Strategy Y. And whose career is on the line if Strategy X fails? I think we know the answer to that one.

By my guess, although Wnek has a Hollywood-starlet type reputation for playing fast and loose with his birth date, the pair can boast a combined age of 84, or a been-around-the-business age of 40 or so years. In practical terms, that means our intrepid duo can claim to have worked through the boom periods of the late 80s and the late 90s, and the 91-93 and current recessions.

That accumulated experience brings with it a lot of wisdom, as much if not more than many clients will have. Factor in the different clients and different sectors the pair have notched up, and you have a formidable well of experience on which to draw.

In fact, if you look at the most successful start-ups of recent years (M&C Saatchi, Clemmow Hornby Inge, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners and even Mother), you will see that they are all underpinned by one thing: the age and experience of the founding partners. So why does none of them use it as a selling point? Well, that's advertising's dirty little secret.

Caroline Marshall is on holiday. She will be back next week, older and wiser.


Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content