Out-of-work ad man makes breakfast news with ageism claims

Out-of-work ad man Tony Simms appeared on Seven’s Sunrise this morning appealing to the advertising and marketing world for a job.

With a sandwich board over his shoulders advertising his experience and contact details, Simms arrived at Martin Place at 6am and was interviewed by Sunrise journalist Natalie Barr.

Simms spoke out on ageism in advertising as part of the “Are you still relevant over 40” session at Mumbrella360.

Simms, formerly chief director at Cheil, Samsung’s inhouse ad agency, told Mumbrella: “I’ve been asked to go to a major bank and a major agency group this afternoon and I’m open to further enquiries,” he said. “One woman was called by her boss, who knew she got off the bus at Martin Place, to collect my card.”

“I wasn’t subtle. I also had a number of people take my picture to upload to Twitter and include my LinkedIn page details. The aim has been to get social media working for me – light the fire and it doesn’t take much to fan the flames,” he added.

Sims told Mumbrella that too many agencies are looking for staff who are “young and funky” and he’s been told he’s not ‘the right cultural fit’. Of late, he has been working as a consultant for a number of Photon agencies, as well as the start-up Wise, an agency that specialises in targeting seniors.

He said: “A client wants someone who has been around the block with solid business experience. If you’ve been a project manager in an agency for four or five years you haven’t got that yet.”

“Agencies believe that staff who are young and funky will offer the cutting edge in latest ideas and approaches – but consumers come in all ages. Just as there’s diversity in consumers, agencies should be offering diversity to their clients.”

Simms and his sandwich board will today be in Ultimo, The Rocks and other areas around the city where agencies are prevalent.


  1. Ron Jeremy
    7 Nov 11
    2:01 pm

  2. Maybe he could start a sandwich board media company?

  3. Dave
    7 Nov 11
    2:08 pm

  4. Go Tony.
    How many ad agencies would still be in business if consumers over 50 blacklisted their clients for ignoring them I wonder?
    And how many clients need an education on the power of the 50+ market?
    Babyboomers can be lethal with their credit card use and purchasing power so if agencies want to kill off their clients, just be ageist.

  5. Another Oldie
    7 Nov 11
    2:37 pm

  6. Hey Tony – keep up the good work! Agree wholeheartedly. I was about to walk away from the industry earlier this year myself, but found an agency willing to take on someone over 35… you’ll find one I’m sure!

  7. Dave Craigus
    7 Nov 11
    2:41 pm

  8. Gives me hope too – hola Tony! And, Mumbrella, follow this please, I wanna see how he goes OK?

  9. Almost 40
    7 Nov 11
    2:48 pm

  10. Mate – I’m having the exact same problem. Keep being told I’m ‘not a cultural fit’ despite a solid amount of experience under my belt. When I ask what ‘not a cultural fit’ means, I get agencies stumbling all over the place without one giving me a proper answer.

  11. MrCurly
    7 Nov 11
    3:02 pm

  12. Great work Tony (or lack of it!),

    This is unfortunately far more widespread than the media would have us believe. So much talk of industries burning need for mature workers, it is basically ill informed rhetoric! There is a closed door policy in the majority of business once you are on the dark side of 35.

  13. Glenn
    7 Nov 11
    3:02 pm

  14. Advertisng has a McDonalds philosophy. If you’re over 17 you’re too old no matter how talented you are. Well done Tony for highlighting a blight on a social alienation that is as humiliating as any other in a society that shuns people as they get older.

    Stamp out ageism. Vote for Tony 😉

  15. TTJ
    7 Nov 11
    3:08 pm

  16. Great idea – very poor typography.

  17. Anonymous
    7 Nov 11
    3:09 pm

  18. Ok Tony… There are heaps of young Australians out there who are struggling to find jobs and being forced to live on the doll because there just isn’t any work available!! It’s good to see that you are getting yourself out there and doing the best you can, but the reason you are not getting a job is not because of ageism! Maybe you need to pull your head? Obviously start thinking about a new career or something? If anything, I’ve noticed ageism toward young people. You always see industries advertiseing for people with experience and qualifications. It’s very hard to find a place that’s willing to actually take on a new apprentice or trainee. There’s alot of young people out there that are just desperate to get the ball rolling, they are sick of hearing about some person in there 40s or 50s who have had years to guarantee their own future but have done nothing about it! And all they can do now is just complain. Young people are tired of waiting!!!

  19. 39 year-old fogie
    7 Nov 11
    3:19 pm

  20. Fancy that, Anonymous, an industry being all hung up on experience and qualifications. How, like, unfair. We should just hire every Gen Y-er that thinks they deserve a job.
    Its always been a tough industry to crack but I doubt there has ever been greater accessibility for really young people than in the past decade.
    Good on you Tony.

  21. Phil Dobbie
    7 Nov 11
    3:24 pm

  22. I’ve also noticed a growing discrimination against people who can’t spell.

  23. Anonymous
    7 Nov 11
    3:37 pm

  24. I thought that:

    1. nobody over 30 wanted to work agency side (given you can go & earn double the money while working half the hours client side)


    2. the typical agency requires cheap, eager (read: young) staff to survive, given margins are so tight everywhere else.

    Good luck to the fella – I hope for his sake he doesn’t end up in an agency!

  25. Julie
    7 Nov 11
    3:38 pm

  26. Hey Anonymous, I’m guessing you are under 35?

  27. Next Door
    7 Nov 11
    3:40 pm

  28. All that experience on offer. Grab it.

    Agency heads, you may like young and funky workers but I promise you, most blue-chip clients worth their salt don’t want their key agency team leads still in nappies. They want people who understand business as well as the latest social media stunts and app use

  29. Anonymous
    7 Nov 11
    3:42 pm

  30. Dear Anonymous , 7 Nov 11, 3:09 pm.
    Learn how to spell and write you little Gen Y germ – maybe then you’ll get a job! “Maybe you need to pull your head?!” “advertiseing”
    Asking for experience and qualifications is not ageism towards young people – it’s hiring people who are capable. If all businesses hired incompetent young people like you the country would be in the toilet. Young people need to turn up and prove themselves to hold onto a job – this is true of every generation in their youth. What have you ever done to prove yourself? Get over your ridiculous sense of entitlement. The advertising industry is renowned for chewing people up and spitting them out. One day when you’re old enough to understand this you’ll want to thank Tony for making such a stand. Until then why don’t you stick to twitter, facebook & SMS – where nobody minds if you don’t know how to make words look all proper ‘n stuff…

  31. Sylvia
    7 Nov 11
    3:49 pm

  32. @anonymous: “forced to live on the doll”?.. isn’t that illegal in this country? then you are telling poor Tony to pull his head… hey, he’s only looking for job satisfaction..

    @Tony – mate, it looks to me as if PR is your bag. Well done, and good luck.

  33. Kirst
    7 Nov 11
    3:51 pm

  34. Hey Tony, Good work and happy to hear of the buzz that has surrounded your approach with Sunrise and Mumbrella….

    Mumbrella, please report back on this story, good read and hope you get that job you want Tony!!

  35. Kirst
    7 Nov 11
    3:54 pm

  36. @Anonymous — Best you proof read your text and learn how to spell “Advertising” first before you start looking for a career in the industry. Keep up the good work Tony!!! All the best with your approach!

  37. Peter Rush
    7 Nov 11
    3:57 pm

  38. There’s a moment in good storytelling when the cornered protagonist looks inside himself to find a hero he barely imagined was there. Rather than let circumstances act upon him, he faces them and declares how it’s going to be. Most people in this business will one day find themselves in Tony’s position. How many will stand their ground like this guy. You’re a hero Tony.

  39. Tony Simms
    7 Nov 11
    4:00 pm

  40. Thank you everyone for your support!

    Hang in there @ anonymous. It is also tough entering the industry and as you can see from the comments above, your career path can be somewhat limited.

    There is a need for change all round. More entry level opportunities, decent training programs and opportunities for growth and a decent career path
    where mentors have a place.

    Here’s to a brighter future for all!

  41. Gezza
    7 Nov 11
    4:02 pm

  42. I hope he gets a job on the client side!

  43. Love Hate
    7 Nov 11
    4:07 pm

  44. First of all, I agree a very scary topic.
    But some question as to why it took someone else to make it digital…
    A sandwich board, to get on FTA TV in todays day and age?
    Is the medium the message here in regards to Tony?

  45. Gezza
    7 Nov 11
    4:07 pm

  46. The moral of the story is never EVER accept the role of Client Service Director.

  47. Doughboy
    7 Nov 11
    4:16 pm

  48. I agree that it is hard to break in to the industry and that many young people have to be content with the dole, or with a doll if that is their preference.

    However, people over 35 have a lot to offer as they have been in business through varying economic climes.

    Also, consider that these people have families, and it is clear that working is important and their work ethic is strong.

    I know people with great brand experience and genius level IQ’s that can’t get work due their age.

    One thing for certain is that no serious business would employ an illiterate fool.


  49. Anonymous, nov 11, 3:09 pm
    7 Nov 11
    4:19 pm

  50. I truly hope you find what your looking for and succeed Tony! Everyone deserves a chance! Fingers crossed for you!

  51. Greg
    7 Nov 11
    4:24 pm

  52. Jesus i am 34….time is ticking

  53. Client
    7 Nov 11
    4:33 pm

  54. As a client I am sick of very average 25 year old so-called Account Directors working on our business who are drop dead gorgeous, but way too junior to be an account director.

    I want a senior person working on our accounts, not someone with almost no life experience.

  55. Max
    7 Nov 11
    5:26 pm

  56. A good marketing ploy, if nothing else.

    Do not agree though – have to say that talent and ability will always shine through regardless of age.

  57. Sam
    7 Nov 11
    6:04 pm

  58. Thank you Client @ 4.33. Now if only your agency would listen to you. There are agencies that do listen to clients, I am at one.

  59. Terry
    7 Nov 11
    6:10 pm

  60. @Love_Hate you ask a good question but should be able to figure the answer out for yourself – sandwich board onto FTA TV (interruption media in other words) are spectacularly more effective in reaching your target and prompting action than digital media alternatives.

  61. Linda
    7 Nov 11
    6:30 pm

  62. Thanks Client. If more people like you stood up and said to their agencies what you just said here, we wouldn’t see this happening as much. And on the flip side, more clients may even stick with their agencies longer.

  63. James P
    7 Nov 11
    6:39 pm

  64. I was told long ago that the only industry more ageist than advertising was hairdressing. It’s totally true. Every account exec is a 20/30 something quite capable and sometimes exceedingly capable female. Capable at doing the functions of process. But what they desperately lack is the life experience and career experience to make really informed judgement calls on creative work. And you can see the results. Advertising has never been worse.

    Agencies won’t hire seniors because (a) they don’t want to pay the salaries (b) they won’t fit the youth culture (c) they’re afraid they’ll live up to the stereotype of the inflexible menopausal senior (d) Gen Y chicky babes expect to be fast tracked to senior account execs in 3 years anyway — rather than the 10 -15 it took 20 years ago.

    Plus the utter bullshit in agencies, and the pressures, are now higher than ever. So anyway senior, who recognises the fragility of life, and its brevity, tends to steer clear of the bullshit if they’ve had a mid-life wakeup call. And instead seek less pressure cooker and less infantile environments.

  65. Anonymous
    7 Nov 11
    7:32 pm

  66. Client @4.33
    Pay your agency fairly and they will resource your business accordingly. Better still, train your 20 something brand managers about communications and creativity, rather than just giving them a chart with ‘personality, values and RTBs’, and your agency will up the anti of the people that have to talk to them for hours or read their 10 page feedback emails of waffle!
    It’s a two way thing.

  67. Tony Simms
    7 Nov 11
    7:42 pm

  68. Thanks @ Terry….nailed it in one
    Interrupt people with a very traditional almost old fashioned sandwich board.
    Its the last thing people expect to see and maximises the effect
    It took all of 5 minutes to also attract the attention of the Sunrise team with the same device.

    A simple printed card directed any interested people to a LinkedIn Page, then light small fires in social media and let go. We all have a stack of tools to use. Working with isolated tools creates blips that are more than hard to justify to hungry clients who have every right to demand more for their money.

    The right mix of tools gives the client what they expect….more bang for the buck!

  69. It's scary for all of us
    7 Nov 11
    8:01 pm

  70. Advertising is based around trends. Some fashions change, some don’t.

    In account service:
    Good account directors are always in demand, but it’s much cheaper to promote a 22 year old account executive to account director than hire someone who has 5 years experience (about the right level of experience for an account director).

    Good GAD’s are always in demand however their function seems to be more and more to please the client and retain their team while reducing overheads, hence the premature promotions.

    In planning:
    It doesn’t matter what age you are. Unless you’re a digital planner, in which case witnessing the birth of the internet until now means you’re a little long in the tooth. Strange, as they can spot trends from 15 years ago re-emerging in different guises.

    In traffic and production:
    More experience the better. Maturity brings a great balance.

    In the creative department:
    Anything older than last Tuesday is thrown out with the skills and patience to spot the opportunities and play it safe on the waste-of-time briefs. Creatives have to constantly retrain on both sides of the fence: art directors now posses similar mac skills to most designers to reduce overheads. Copywriters never seem to go out of fashion, even tho language and style is constantly evolving, nobody seems to get emotional copy versus functional copy anymore making good writers exceptionally rare. Old Spice is a well known example of tone, yet most writers don’t even understand why it’s so good and struggle to just get the basics right let alone the craft that good writers posses.


    I’m on a boat, and enjoying it more than ever. It’s a cruel world but once you escape the shitty cycle that is geared towards producing shit work either in the name of profit or flash-in-the-pan Cannes and realise why there aren’t many memorable, revered campaigns these days you can live with it pretty easily.

    Good luck to all, it’s always been hard, just now it’s a lot harder. And shittier.

  71. @client
    7 Nov 11
    8:04 pm

  72. Hire the ugly ones.

    I can guarantee you they’ve probably had a pretty hard life and had to work damn hard to get where they are in their ‘glamorous industry’.

    And that gives a hell of a lot more life experience than age or beauty.

  73. ArnoldB
    7 Nov 11
    9:09 pm

  74. Stick in there Tony. Nothing replaces experience. Start your own agency; The over 50+ population is growing fast, it’s a tide that will not retreat, and they are not particularly persuaded by ads made by lambs, for lambs. From former Exec, Young and Rubicam, London.

  75. Anonymous
    7 Nov 11
    11:12 pm

  76. I find the digital planning thing weird too. Believe it or not, there are folk out there with 20 years digital experience. And just think jobs, gates and Berners-lee are all baby boomers and that old bloke Jonathan Ive is 43.

    As I watch my 3 year old nephew play with my 63 year old mum’s iPad, I wonder how long it will take our industry to realize that the beauty of digital and technology is it defies boundaries and age.

  77. johnny leg
    8 Nov 11
    4:02 am

  78. I think Tony should be applauded. As a 25 year old myself, I often compare my career to that of a rugby player in which at some point my ageing bones make me not worth my inflated salary and I become obsolete and traded in for a young kid with false confidence, shiny white teeth, skinny jeans and a willingness to get paid peanuts to work long hours.

    In five years time however, when digital becomes native to every single person in ad land, i hope to see a more even level playing field where critical thinking, life experience and creativity are rewarded over personality and style.

  79. Chris
    8 Nov 11
    8:03 am

  80. Ageism is endemic. And “cultural fit” is code for ageism. Once you are over 40 you end up being interviewed by employment agency and “HR professionals” in their 20s and you just remind them of their mother or father :( .

    I’m convinced that the nation’s “skills shortage” is due to this. Don’t tell me that experienced people can’t adapt or learn or that the only choice companies have is to recruit people from the UK, Ireland, or Asia on work visas.

    Ageism is just as bad in the client side as it is in agencies, by the way. There should be a law against it, just like racism.

  81. Hmmm...
    8 Nov 11
    8:24 am

  82. Yep.

    If clients want senior heads on their business, then perhaps they can start actually paying for them.

    Unpaid pitches, lowly retainers, pitching to cut fees… And clients bitch about agencies having to put inexperienced kids on their account??

    They don’t pull those stunts with other professional services they procure (legal, finance). Why do it with advertising?

  83. Cosmo
    8 Nov 11
    10:18 am

  84. The greatest scam currently perpetrated in agencies is “planners” — something that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Planners do what account execs used to do: basic analysis and brief writing. Because the number of 20 something AEs who can write a write a proper insightful brief you can count on a leper’s hand. This silly paradigm is even compromised by the fact that AEs see the telephone number salaries planners are earning and quickly target themselves to be one. So you have agencies awash with planners who are no better than the AEs they’re replacing. How do I know? Because I’ve had to hand-hold them and rewrite many of their briefs. It’s utterly insane, and shows the system is broken.

    I once I had to attend an agency meeting and it was like going to a kindergarten: two grey heads of the agency principals, and a sea of 20 something frat boys in hawaiian shirts the creative department and young girl AEs. No wonder clients are frustrated. Even if they don’t know it, they want insight and gravitas and business experience, not whizzy nonsense. But most every senior who can’t get a job in advertising has taken their experience elsewhere. And you can see the results reflected everywhere in advertising: clever clever smart arsed stuff that doesn’t touch people on any emotional level. And then you look at the so-called industry figureheads like Todd Sampson wearing a t-shirt on the Gruen Transfer that reads “White People Scare Me” – which I presume is what counts as edgy in their mind. There are no words.

    All I can say is, at the moment agencies deserve all the contempt they get. Oh, and re: the previous poster’s comment about advertising and hairdressing being the most ageist industries. Too true. They also share another characteristic. Look at their reception areas. Like no other industries, both shower themselves with endless awards which are mostly utterly compromised and irrelevant to the business outcomes of the clients they serve.

  85. 40-something creative
    8 Nov 11
    11:50 am

  86. I think it’s funny that everyone thinks older creatives can’t come up with ideas as cool as the youngens. It’s got nothing to do with age and everything to do with how your brain works. And being an intellectual and cultural ‘vacuum cleaner’ is the key to great ideas.

    Also the older you get the less interested you are in all the political bullshit and showponying around, which the youngens seem to love – and which can destroy a good agency in no time flat.

    You get your ego in check by your mid 30s. You know some will be better than you; and you better than others. Older creatives who have a gift should be treated like gold. They’re the ‘brains trust’ after all.

  87. Paddy Douneen
    8 Nov 11
    11:55 am

  88. I was very pleased for a young man that I was working with recently who made the 30 under 30 list of another trade magazine, but at the same time I challenged the same magazine to produce a 40 over 40 piece. Unfortunately I think I may be waiting sometime for this one to materialize….
    On a personal note, as a 47 year old with 25 years’ experience behind me, I have never before been this enthusiastic about the industry that I’ve been lucky to work in all this time. Marketing, advertising and media has never been so challenging; solving clients problems has never been so complex yet intellectually stimulating; mentoring young people in the early stage of their careers never so rewarding.
    Like Tony, I’m available right now. I can be contacted via my LinkedIn profile.

  89. Logic
    8 Nov 11
    12:43 pm

  90. Cosmo – well said.

  91. Mick
    8 Nov 11
    1:28 pm

  92. I love how everyone thinks it’s so easy for the under 25’s. What about all the creatives so hungry for a job that they are happy to work for up to a year unpaid and then for 3 years literally below minimum wage. It’s hard at both ends.

  93. Denise Shrivell
    8 Nov 11
    2:52 pm

  94. 35 years is an extremely premature use by date particularly if you consider your working life is approx 45 years (from age 20-65 or so). You’re on the shelf for two-thirds of your career.

    I’d also like to present a case for parents – very difficult to find good flexible roles in our industry. Ask me – I’ve had to make my own opportunities as I manage nearly 3 months school holidays a year – and you can count on the kids having at least 2 weeks off sick per year. The school system is truly against 2 parents holding full time employment.

    Congratulations Tony on your wonderful initiative – not easy putting your head above the parapet so good on you. I wish you all the best.

    C’mon industry – let’s walk the talk and get our act together on this one.

  95. Terry
    8 Nov 11
    5:25 pm

  96. @ Anonymous, don’t worry too long about the best demographics for digital planners. Very very soon clients will start to realise that the ROI from their digital activities is miniscule and that digital doesn’t require an expensive planner anyway.

  97. Terry
    8 Nov 11
    5:31 pm

  98. @Hmmm, agree that clients underpay for advertising but the reason they do is that they can. Up to agencies to put a higher value on the contribution they make.

  99. flesh peddler
    8 Nov 11
    6:15 pm

  100. Tim, why did my last comment not make the cut?

  101. mumbrella
    8 Nov 11
    7:54 pm

  102. Hi flesh peddler, I’m struggling to immediately spot it – can you repost?


    Tim – Mumbrella

  103. Tony Simms
    8 Nov 11
    7:55 pm

  104. The feedback over the last day or so has been fantastic…thanks all.

    A number of people have contacted me to see I have received any offers
    of work or emplyment. There have been some discussion but nothing concrete.

    If you know of an opportunity or know someone I should be talking to, I’d appreciate it very much if you could contact me through my LinkedIn page.
    There is a link to my page in the article above.

    In the meantime I have had a number of people contact me to take this groundswell of opinion even wider and will be exploring these over the coming week.

    Thanks again. Its great to see the spirit of the industry is alive….and kicking!

    Tony Simms

  105. Heidi
    9 Nov 11
    9:34 am

  106. Age discrimination is alive and well in Australia. That’s why I started Adage.com.au, Australia’s leading job board for mature age workers. We are an advocate for the mature worker and help connect them with age friendly employers – those who value maturity and experience. While there are statistics to present a compelling business case on why to hire mature age, not enough employers are embracing this market. I’d love to hear from anyone who has any stories to tell – both positive or negative – on their experiences in the work place or finding work where ageism may have existed.
    Email me directly at heidi@adage.com.au

  107. Gezza
    9 Nov 11
    9:52 am

  108. Cummins Ross must be hiring. You’ll need a better hair cut though.

  109. opuscule
    9 Nov 11
    12:21 pm

  110. @gezza
    Wish I had posted that! nice one

  111. Anonymous
    9 Nov 11
    2:42 pm

  112. Cosmo, planning is now over 40 years old. In 1968 Stanley Pollitt, was concerned at the enormity of discretion given to account management in the writing of the creative brief, and felt they were using data either incompetently or expediently. He wanted a research person at the elbow of every account man. So the first planners were researchers and not suits and we’ve come a long way since then.

    If you would like to learning more can I suggest you go online and read the article on the UK’s website called ‘what’s Account Planning. If an agency is using jar suits as planners then they don’t value planning as a function and should be given the flick or should be forced the said article.

  113. Morgan
    9 Nov 11
    3:57 pm

  114. Heidi,

    Alison Monroe started Adage 10 years ago????
    You are correct about ageism being alive and well in Australia, but I thought
    Alison Monroe and Catriona started it for professionals???

  115. Heidi Holmes
    10 Nov 11
    9:54 am

  116. Morgan you are right but I took over and relaunched and expanded the offering this year. Alison and catriona are Still friends of adage and were the original founders. I’m very passionate about this issue and welcome any other feedback. Cheers

  117. Tom
    14 Nov 11
    4:01 am

  118. Cosmo… couldn’t possibly agree with you more… Well done Tony keep up the good work

  119. Tony Simms
    14 Nov 11
    5:15 pm

  120. In the last week I have received over 150 emails and over 50 phone calls. The response and encouragement has been incredible and thank you to all who have contacted me.

    The conversations I have had uncover some ugly truths. The people who have contacted me fall into some distinct categories

    * Senior agency people in all areas of agencies who finding themselves in exactly
    the same position and when they apply for a role are being told they are “not the
    right cultural fit”

    * Those starting out in agencies who look around them and see very few
    roles for the years ahead of them

    * A group who are supposedly in their prime but who also can see no future and
    feel they too will soon feel the tap on the shoulder.

    * Senior clients who are also finding that they are also facing the same use-by-date culture.

    * Current clients in marketing positions who are scathing about the lack of depth
    and experience in their agency team and tired of their agency’s excuses.

    * Recruiters who receive very few briefs for senior roles and are asked for
    candidates who do not have the skills required to do the role and have very little
    in terms of support and management. They spend their lives being kicked
    around client’s boardrooms. Before too long recruiters are asked for new
    candidates and the cycle starts again.

    Whilst my original intention has been to land a great role (no concrete offers yet…still happy to meet if you wish) it has highlighted a multitude of issues that need solving for a better future for both agency and marketing teams.


    Tony Simms

  121. Waynemac
    22 Nov 11
    4:04 pm

  122. The plethora of responses you received Tony could indicate a wider cross-section facing a similar predicament in industries outside marketing and media. Good luck with your job searching – am confident something will lead to a result from taking just one step forward. Good luck!

  123. Tracey
    30 Nov 11
    3:52 pm

  124. This must be the longest thread of comments I have ever seen. This highlights how big the issue is for staff over 40 in Marketing and Advertising.