Out of work adman Tony Simms gets 17 job offers – all to work for nothing

Less than a fortnight since out of work adman Tony Simms launched a campaign to find a job that sparked a debate on ageism in advertising, the former agency boss has received 17 job offers – but each company has asked him to work for nothing.

Simms told Mumbrella that each potential employer – which were from digital, advertising and marketing companies – has offered him a position on the condition he brings in business before he is paid.

“I’ve been told, ‘You’d be great for our company. We love your spirit. You have all the right skills. The only catch is, we can’t pay you.'”

“I’ve had to turn these offers down. I can’t work for nothing – nobody works for free,” he said.

However, Simms said that he has been encouraged by the level of support he’s received.”My phone did not stop ringing for a week. I’ve been offered a huge amount of encouragement. It seems that many people have gone through – or are going through – the same thing.”

Simms’ campaign began with a protest at Martin Place on Monday 7 November, which led to an interview with Sunrise.

“I’m more determined than ever to find a job,” Simms added. “You should stand up for who you are – and how you go about things. I just want someone to give me a fair go.”

“There are many senior people without jobs who are finding it tough out there. But this isn’t just affecting them. It’s affecting the entire industry – grads, who lack mentors. And clients, who aren’t getting the depth of input from their agencies – which ultimately affects the end product.”

Simms’ campaign was followed by an opinion article headlined ‘Am I ageist… or a realist?’ by new McCann boss Ben Lilley that fueled the debate on ageism in advertising.


  1. flesh peddler
    18 Nov 11
    11:16 am

  2. are we absolutely sure here that Mr Simms isn’t getting a job because of his age?

  3. Was a client of Tony's.
    18 Nov 11
    12:38 pm

  4. I have seen feedback first hand of the agencies telling Tony that although he is highly capable of doing the role that he interviewed for and so far was the “Best” applicant for the role, the client has come back that Tony is not “Culturally” right for the agency.

    I can say first hand that Tony is a rare find and the market is missing out on a true marketer that has a wealth of experience in most disciplines of advertising and is a great mentor to the teams that he has lead.

    Keep it up Tony…

  5. Linda
    18 Nov 11
    12:42 pm

  6. Flesh Peddler, have you checked out Tony’s credentials? I’m pretty sure it’s nothing less than pure ageism. Keep it up Tony. Let’s really get this out from under the carpet and on the agenda with agencies and clients.

  7. James Vosper
    18 Nov 11
    12:48 pm

  8. Flesh Peddler.

    That comment is just mean.

    This guy has swallowed his pride and gone to the media to highlight a problem he is facing.

    He has been offered work for no pay and, quite reasonably, said no.

    Kick someone when they are down and making their best effort to get up.

    Shame, shame, shame.

  9. Scott Pettet
    18 Nov 11
    1:05 pm

  10. I wonder if these same agencies work for free until their clients see an uplift in sales linked to the agencies work?

  11. Gezza
    18 Nov 11
    1:14 pm

  12. Out of 17 companies was there none that would have been worth a punt working for a defined period on a bare minimum wage plus travel costs with an understanding on a success fee or salary if the position became permanent ? I think sometimes you’ve got to back yourself in this game.

  13. Peter Rush
    18 Nov 11
    1:25 pm

  14. Recommended viewing for the 17 agencies who want Tony to work for them for nothing.


  15. This ain't the Salvos
    18 Nov 11
    1:36 pm

  16. Tony should not work for free.

    Its the first and most golden rule of any freelance situation. Work for free, and then you’ve set a dangerous precedent, and implied a low value to what you do. Then try negotiating a fair salary from a zero base. And what of the costs to Tony of securing this hypothetical new business?

    If I was Tony, I’d certainly be seeking out new business, but for myself.

  17. Paris
    18 Nov 11
    2:57 pm

  18. Good for you Tony! There’s many like you out there.
    I’m early 30s and working in advertising and media and I would love to know what happens when we get to 35-40…where do the people go? Is it a better place? …hmmm maybe not.

  19. Adrian
    18 Nov 11
    3:00 pm

  20. If these companies are saying “bring in the business and we will pay you” then why not cut out the middle man and set up your own business.

  21. Anonymous
    18 Nov 11
    3:03 pm

  22. Paris, the penny eventually drops & they all go and get jobs on the client side. ANd work half the hours & make double the money.

  23. Creative Old Fart Gets Second Wind
    18 Nov 11
    3:08 pm

  24. Look, Tony is a business, not a charity. So why did all 17 respondents reckon his hard won IP is theirs for free?

    He’s rightly brought up the elephant in the room and it’s his humility and street cred that should be respected here. If it were some junior burgers standing in the street outside of an agency they’d be lauded, applauded and hired. But that’s the point isn’t it – they’re cheaper.

    Tony, why don’t you name names? I’d love to know who out there are in your particular conga line of suckholes.

    Meanwhile, despite being cash poor and needing a gig myself, let me be the first to shout you lunch.

  25. Heinz 55
    18 Nov 11
    3:16 pm

  26. @Adrian, because he would need the critical mass to support the getting of the new business. D’oh! Do you think he should spend 2 or 3 months on spec? Is that how you do it? Is that how you’d pay your outsourced talent? Is that how you’d pay for your groceries? Do you have any IDEAS? Please, spill the beans…

  27. Hank
    18 Nov 11
    3:18 pm

  28. Tony Simms
    18 Nov 11
    3:23 pm

  29. @Gezza,
    No bare minimum wage at all…zip….nothing.
    A number of people who have contacted me
    have said that it is fairly common.
    All of them have like me declined the offer.

    Try asking an architect to design a house for free.
    Or your accountant to do your books or tax for free.
    Or your mechanic to do the same when fixing your car.

    I’m seeking consulting work or a full time role on
    either agency or side and more than free
    to discuss opportunities.


    Tony Simms

  30. Tony Simms
    18 Nov 11
    3:35 pm

  31. With client side experience I’m open to client roles as well.

    Thanks all for your support.

    Perhaps I’m the eternal realistic yet pragmatic optomist but I do believe there can be change and everyone’s current situation and future would be all the better for it.

    Here’s some food for thought:

    “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
    Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
    Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
    Education will not; the world is full of educated failures.
    Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
    Calvin Coolidge

  32. Gezza
    18 Nov 11
    3:41 pm

  33. In that case you totally did the right thing. Outrageous.

  34. Mrcurly
    18 Nov 11
    3:48 pm

  35. My sister needed work MANY years ago, and offered to work as a barmaid for a couple of weeks for nothing – to prove herself to her employer. My understanding is that this practice is now illegal.
    It is a flagrant disregard for employees rights imposing this sort of condition to ’employment’

    By these standards i could build an empire from people with Tonys’ skillset, offer them payment provided they can bring me business that pays more than i will pay them…

    Stick to your guns Tony, something will come up.

  36. Max
    18 Nov 11
    4:25 pm

  37. Tony,

    Take the best of the 17 job offers, work for free for six weeks. Stipulate in your contract you will receive a percentage of the revenue you bring in for the business. Then work your arse off to pull in that income for your employer.

    The world doesn’t owe you favours, you have to create them no matter what your age.

  38. sven
    18 Nov 11
    5:01 pm

  39. i agree with Max – employers clearly think they will be taking a (bigger) chance with you Tony so take a chance on yourself then – back yourself to prove your worth to the best of the 17. You’ve already swallowed your pride – what else have you got to lose? If you act like a hungry young buck rather than a jaded older guy with a sense of self-entitlement maybe you’ll end up with a paying gig.

  40. Anne Miles
    18 Nov 11
    5:30 pm

  41. @Tony Simms and @Creative Old Fart – I’m tempted to pull a bunch of talented people together and start our own agency! Surely it would be better working for free on your own business than for someone else to exploit you.

    The blog feedback is clear that there’s a place for a business of super talented people – clients want it.

  42. Tony Simms
    18 Nov 11
    5:33 pm

  43. Hi Max,

    For the next 6 weeks I would like you to work for free. Work your absolute butt off and abandon any other efforts you may be making to earn any income at all. Take absolutely no salary of any kind and place a zero value on everything you do.

    Ring your bank and let them know that the mortgage will not be paid. When it comes to buying your groceries explain that you are currently working for nothing and I’m sure Coles will understand. Ignore the exhorbitant electricity bill, the phone bill you have racked up recently….in fact pretend you have no bills at all.

    I’m sure you enjoy the experience.



  44. Tony Richardson
    18 Nov 11
    6:38 pm

  45. Doesn’t this say a lot about our industry? (More than the age thing I mean.)

    A lot of noise, publicity, attention, clicks, phone calls, milage, coverage, branding, busy-ness … but until person A gives person B some money nothing has really happened.

    Tony, I wish you less publicity and more cash.

  46. Grant
    18 Nov 11
    9:15 pm

  47. WTF! I can’t believe so many proposed the same ridiculous offer! I’m sure things will turn around soon Tony, alot of people have to be reading this.

  48. Whatjanesays
    19 Nov 11
    12:08 am

  49. Honestly, I am appalled that people seriously think it’s ok to ask someone to work without being paid.
    When is this ever reasonable?
    It’s not work experience week for Goodness sake!

    Those companies and the people above who commented supporting this tactic should be ashamed of themselves.

    Best of luck Tony.

  50. Amelia
    19 Nov 11
    3:57 am

  51. Good luck Tony, I’m sure something awesome will come your way.

  52. Anonymous
    19 Nov 11
    1:40 pm

  53. 3 degrees and 2 Masters living on the streets ?


  54. Creative Old Fart
    19 Nov 11
    1:52 pm

  55. @Anne Miles… OK, I’ll buy you a cheap and cheerful lunch too. Interested?

  56. Stu
    19 Nov 11
    2:53 pm

  57. I would love to start a new agency filled with such high experience marketers, then pitch and win business from those 17 agencies….(i’m 36, so would be the youth of the team!)

  58. Anne Miles
    20 Nov 11
    8:47 pm

  59. @Creative Old Fart – you’re on… hello@annemiles.com.au

  60. indy agency owner
    21 Nov 11
    8:47 am

  61. Definitely think you guys should start your own agency. Put in a house worth’s of trading capital, work for free for at least 6 months (6 weeks would be a breeze), work like hell so you can pay your staff’s mortgages for them, hustle like mad to get clients on board, cashflow up, business in the door and profitable and then see how you respond when someone comes along demanding a “fair salary”.

    Looking forward to hearing news in Mumbrella of Anne,Stu, COF and Tony’s new agency… stop complaining about how other people should run their businesses and step up to the plate!

  62. Logic
    21 Nov 11
    9:15 am

  63. Name the agencies who offered these free roles. Bit of a low act offering a senior guy work ‘for free’ … disrespectful. Show the same contempt back Tony.

  64. Max
    21 Nov 11
    9:40 am

  65. Hi Tony,

    I’m not trying to offend you by suggesting you should work for free, I merely stating the facts rather then propping you up with encouragement. It’s pure economics and you should try to approach it from a non emotional level. You’re in a competitive industry that has more young people entering then there are jobs available which drives down wages and increases the talent pool for agencies to pick from.

    If you were after job security maybe look to the public service that provides great work/life balance and a steady pay cheque to cover your mortgage.

  66. Linda
    21 Nov 11
    10:16 am

  67. Indy Agency Owner does have a bit of a point. If you need to make money quickly, running your own gig certainly isn’t any panacea. I tried to do it myself, but after years of contractors letting me down, clients that wanted the world for nothing, working my butt of to get business in the door and wracking up a huge debt while doing so, I decided it was much easier and more enjoyable to freelance again.

  68. Former Client
    21 Nov 11
    10:43 am

  69. Anyone questioning Tony’s experience and integrity clearly doesn’t know him. Ageism isn’t strictly limited to advertising and or media, I know first hand that it is happening everywhere. My 25+ years in sales and marketing doesn’t seem to mean anything to recruiters. As a former client of Tony’s I can’t recommend him enough. I suggest someone should hire him quickly, before he ends up working for one of your competitors, then you really would regret it. Whilst you’re at it, maybe you should hire me too. Oh, by the way, the uncertainty of not knowing where your next contract is coming from doesn’t exactly do the best thing for marriage, kid’s meals & school or the relationship with the bank manager, we’ve all worked hard at gaining the experience we have, it would be nice to see some companies using it.