The forgotten talent pool: How our industry is ignoring its greatest assets
shots' current new talent focus looks at the best and brightest coming through the ranks of advertising. But is the industry too obsessed with youth, and is advertising's 'cult of the new' attitude doing a disservice to the talented 'older' creatives? Nicky Bullard, Group CCO at MullenLowe London, aged 53 years, eight months and 13 days, gives her view.
Don’t touch me. I will make you sick. Because, you see, I’m three years past my Best Before Date.
There are only about 6% of people aged over 50 in this beautiful industry.
There are only about 6% of people aged over 50 in this beautiful industry. And I’m one of them.
What the hell?
How can we reflect back to the world around us if we don’t reflect the world in our agencies?
Above: If you encounter older people in adverts, they're likely to be on a stairlift, on a cruise or looking for equity release.
We so pride ourselves on being in touch with culture, yet we are totally - blindly - caught up in our own industry’s obsession with youth; which means we just aren’t seeing or showing the reality around us.
Of course, any great creative should be able to pick up any brief for anything and do it justice. You don’t need lived experience.
But, when you do have lived experience – BOOOOM! The personal insights bring nuance and connection in a way the best written creative or casting brief, just can’t.
Being the audience helps us reach and represent the audience in a much more accurate way.
We are making 15% of half the population feel depressed with the work we are putting out into the world! That is just awful. No, it’s shameful.
Our Invisible Powerhouse research looked at the 52 million people in the UK that are over 50. That’s 48% of us. People over 50 currently account for well over half of all household expenditure, and this figure is forecast to rise to 63% by 2040 [International Longevity Centre, 2020]. Yet, only 12% of main characters in ads are over 50.
And they are on stair lifts. Cruises. Or repeating phone numbers for equity release.
According to the Advertising Association’s All In census, 88% of people over 50 are unhappy about how they are represented.
66% feel ignored.
7% are angry.
15% feel depressed or disheartened.
FFS. We are making 15% of half the population feel depressed with the work we are putting out into the world! That is just awful. No, it’s shameful.
Above: Bullard wearing her Best Before Date sticker in Cannes this year.
So, what can we do about it?
We can hold onto the fact that Coco Chanel was 87 when she died in Paris, mid-collection. Monet started his Waterlilies series in his 70s.
Talent does not come with a Best Before Date.
One place we go to celebrate (and steal) the best talent in the world is the Cannes Lions Festival. So, whilst there, I thought I’d whack a grubby Best Before Sticker on myself, showing my 50th birthday date, to see if anyone would respond.
Talent does not come with a Best Before Date.
I posted it on LinkedIn, and it got 135,000 impressions.
And comments like these:
‘Knowledge and calmness go a long way to creating or producing huge campaigns to crazy deadlines. I might be nearly 60 but in some ways, and on certain days, I feel like I’m only getting started.’
‘I’m 44 and already feeling anxiety about figuring out my long-term plan. Advertising seems to kick older people to the kerb.’
‘Companies that don’t understand the power of experienced thinkers are small thinkers.’
‘Who’s headlined Glastonbury? Who’s just been no.1 in the UK singles chart? Who’s the star of the world’s biggest grossing film right now? Oh advertising, try.’
Above: Paul McCartney headlining this year's Glastonbury is, along with being Kate Bush back at the UK Number 1 with Running Up that Hill and Tom Cruise starring in Top Gun: Maverick, one of of the 'older people' who's had huge success this year.
Imagine you have a really tricky brief for the biggest client in your network and you don’t have the experienced talent to handle it?
We need experience in our departments.
Unfortunately, experience is often seen as expensive. Not valuable.
Bringing the best new talent into the industry is essential. But, so is keeping our best older talent.
Unlike the legal and medical professions, we just don’t respect age.
Or understand it.
People over 50 generally don’t give a shit about speaking their minds. Not holding back will surely push the work forward, faster.
Of course, bringing the best new talent into the industry is essential.
But, so is keeping our best older talent, don’t you think?