Give toadies and hacks a chance

Advertising is a young business populated by young people. Since most advertisers want to recruit the next generation of consumers, it stands to reason that they hire youthful agencies.

So Ogilvy’s Young Turks program, announced today, makes sense. And Ogilvy has always had a good reputation for training, and wants to continue to attract and retain the best young talent. Fair enough. But a recruiter recently pointed out that one of the biggest problems with our industry is that it is too youth focused.

Older creatives, planners and suits are often overlooked for roles seen as the divine right of youth. Yes, youth development schemes are laudable. But what are agencies doing to ensure that talent of all ages is valued and nurtured? Was David Ogilvy’s hiring policy shockingly ageist when he, on launching his agency in 1948, wrote: “I have no use for toadies or hacks.”

Ogilvy’s 52-year old chairman Tom Moult argues that the business is, in fact, getting better at valuing older talent. When he started out in 1976, he often got asked: “What are you doing after you’re 30? Because you won’t be working in advertising anymore.”

In a recent Mumbo Report interview, Moult said he wants “radiators not drains” at the agency he was appointed in November to run. I’ve heard that said about ad folk before – of the need for positive people – and I’m pretty sure age has little to do with positive energy.

Dave McCaughan, McCann’s Asia Pacific strategy director who will be talking about baby boomers at Mumbrella360, says that in the Tokyo office where he works, one of the agency’s best creatives is knocking on for 70 and is the go-to guy for how to reach Japan’s ageing population.

Australia is ageing too. And as understandable as it is for agencies to want to clear out ‘dead wood’, it increasingly makes sense to hang on to, and nurture, older talent. The chances are that the ‘dinosaur’ down the corridor is more in tune with what more consumers are thinking and feeling than the bright young thing who’s just started.

Robin Hicks


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