The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Why Longevity Is About Commitment, Not Expectation …

I recently read an article about footballers who continue to ply their trade in the Premiership despite being in their mid 30’s.

The key takeout was that talent might be able to get you to 17 … but it’s character and commitment that gets you to 35.

It was an interesting view, because there’s a lot of parallels with the ad industry.

Let’s be honest, this industry doesn’t like older people.

We’re expensive.
We’re not willing to work the insane hours it likes us to work.
We’re not as connected to society as our younger colleagues.
We’re all a bit cynical about the claims and promises.

Of course, there is a counter-argument, that these are exactly the sort of attributes the ad industry needs more of.


But what bothers me most is the blanket belief that if you’re not in senior management by a certain age, you have nothing to add. That your value is only in managing the business rather than adding to the creativity.

I wrote about how shortsighted this view was ages ago … reinforced by how much I loved Wieden looked for the creativity in the person rather than the age.

Which leads to my point about footballers.

One of the biggest problems when you’re older is people expect you to know it all.

Of course, some people think they do, but there’s this undercurrant that you should.

So any ‘failure’ is seen as a sign of no longer being appropriate.
Any ‘disagreement’ is viewed as a sign you are not a ‘team player’.
And ‘curiorsity’ gets labelled as trying ‘too hard’.

And yet these say far more about the person judging than the person doing it.

Because in my experience, a failure means a willingness to keep pushing boundaries.
Disagreements don’t mean you’re not a team player, you’re someone who wants the team to be better.
And curiosity is a demonstration you want to play an active role in culture rather than just let it pass you by.

Not to mention the declaration of desire.

Because anyone who chooses to keep pushing their standards and knowledge when they could be choosing an easier path is showing just how much they still want it. Especially when the odds are even greater of them ever achieving it, compared to those younger than them.

For me, these are the advertising equivilent of the footballers character and commitment.

Or said another way …

It’s someone who can keep pace with the needs of the team, while adding to the standards and success of it.

Keeping pace is not simply about speed, but relevance, ambition and creativity.

Of course age doesn’t shouldn’t have anything to do with this – I have met just as many younger people without it as much as I have older – but character and commitment does.

And while there is nothing wrong if you don’t subscribe to this, if companies only measure ‘talent’ by age … they’re not just stupid, they’re showing that they don’t actually care about creativity, just the cliche of it.

17 Comments so far
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Is this the planner version of 50 is the new 20?

Comment by DH

Hahaha … could be.

Except it’s not about age, but attitude. That said, I do appreciate age can affect certain attributes and abilities … but it doesn’t affect the ability to think and express creativity, at least if you don’t want it to.

Though this article by the founder of Attik is still a brilliant read:

Comment by Rob

That’s a brilliant article Rob. Thanks for the share.

Comment by Pete

Your last paragraph is pretty good though.

Comment by DH

And true. Tragically true.

Comment by Rob

Brilliantly put Rob. I also like how you have defined it by character, commitment and ambition rather than age. Because despite what many ad agencies like to claim, their decisions are driven more by profit than quality.

Comment by George

This attitude is not exclusive to the advertising industry, but they certainly have perfected it.

Comment by Pete

So many great points in this Rob. I agree with Dave that your last paragraph captures the point brilliantly. I also thought this was great as well.

“Because anyone who chooses to keep pushing their standards and knowledge when they could be choosing an easier path is showing just how much they still want it. Especially when the odds are even greater of them ever achieving it, compared to those younger than them.”

Comment by Pete

However hard it is for you men, it becomes even more destructive when you’re a female or a person of colour.

Comment by Mary Bryant

Absolutely Mary. I couldn’t agree more …

I should have made that point explicitly – especially as this was based around an article I read about a male footballer – but yes, as bad as it is for men, the prejudice becomes even more extreme for women, people of colour, people with disability [I hope that is the correct terminology, I did check a few websites] or members of the LGBTQ+ community, to name just a few.

Comment by Rob

Thank you Robert.

Comment by Mary Bryant

Lots of good points in this
Totally agree it’s dumb to expect older folks to have the answers
They should the the ones with the experience to admit they don’t

Comment by Northern

Yep. Especially as it sends a positive message to those around them that if you don’t know the answer, it’s OK … as long as you then go and find a point of view that can move things forward.

This ‘front it out’ mentality – or worse, ‘yes at all costs’ – messes it up for literally everyone. Especially the work.

PS: It’s nice to have you comment.

Comment by Rob

Especially when it doesn’t appear multiple times.

Comment by John

Whatever HR or talent management say, they judge age before and over talent. And as Mary said, the age limit HR departments place on women and PoC’s ‘value’ is much lower than men.

Comment by Bazza

alright post campbell. funny how most of the fucks who devalue experience are old pricks who got their position by playing the game not making anything actually worthfuckingwhile.

Comment by andy@cynic

So true.

Comment by Rob

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