Ageism in Agencies?
The extreme youthfulness of agencies (is bad for business)
A View from Simon Derungs:
Here’s a shocking statistic – the IPA estimates that just 5.9% of people working in UK agencies are aged 50+. The average age is 33, and has remained like this for the last decade.
I find this shocking not only because I’m in that age bracket myself; I simply can’t understand why agencies place such little value on experience, because I can tell you that it’s what clients value most. And I’m lucky enough to have found an agency that understands the importance of striking the right balance.
In a recent survey of senior marketers, one of the top ‘client gripes’ was “Fewer people but more experienced, please”.
Clients appreciate the advantages of having a small number of highly experienced and effective agency partners who understand them, their business, and their customers, and who have the expertise to deliver great solutions to their thorniest problems. A couple of grey hairs beats a beard and rolled up jeans any day of the week.
The extreme youthfulness of the people who work in agencies, and bias against age and experience, is surely the last great taboo in the industry. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand how agencies thrive on the energy and creativity of youth. But in my experience, that energy and youthfulness doesn’t disappear as these people get older; indeed, their experience only makes them smarter and often more effective still.
In short, there’s a total imbalance, one that is not only unjust, but that makes absolutely no business sense.
Why is this bad for business? Well, it means that agencies have little understanding of the most important audiences to whom they should be talking. The over 50s make up 35% of the UK population, and account for 70% of the UK’s household wealth. That’s over £6 trillion. Yet a recent YouGov report revealed that 80% of those aged 50 and upwards believe brands’ representations of their age group are NOT accurate.
In short, it’s the over 50s who have all the money and buy all the stuff, and yet this highly lucrative audience is hardly represented at all in agencies, except in the occasional lazy and condescending stereotype to promote funeral plans, erectile dysfunction and walk-in bathtubs.
More on that next time!