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Brains Trust - Can Our Industry Support a Long Term Career?



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Welcome to MediaScope's 'Brains Trust' series where we regularly ask our network to comment on topical industry issues. 

With increased awareness of the impact of Australia's ageing population and proposed increases in working age to 70 the 'Brains Trust' comments on long term career prospects in our industry where we've asked....MediaScope Brains Trust - Industry for the Under 35's?

"Can we offer a long term career, where are these opportunities – or are we really an industry only for the under 35’s?"

Click on the 'Brains Trust' names below or scroll down the page to see their answers -

If you'd like to share your views feel free to add your comments below or get in touch to be part of MediaScope's 'Brains Trust'.

Ann Miles - International Creative Services

MediaScope Brains Trust - Anne Miles"I definitely think that the mainstream agencies are biased against older workers – it is due to the cost of the overhead in the main, as the agency model as it exists is no longer relevant in my opinion and they’re looking to cut corners every possible way. I was once one of those young people who benefitted from this trend having landed a role at 21 as Head of TV handling around $20 million in production spend. That was many years ago, so the trend is not new to me. The madness of being in such a senior role with so little experience now is all the more clear to me now I know what I didn’t know!

I’m now more valuable for my experience, broader thinking and cross platform skills than ever before, but it is with clients directly or working in partnership with entrepreneurial businesses who are doing things differently that I’ve found my place now I have grey hair.  What I also notice now, is that the more junior people in the industry can be very shallow, egotistical and unwilling to collaborate and learn, for fear of feeling vulnerable or they think they know more than they do. I know for myself I am willing to share and support young talent in every way and those who know me know I am generous and selfless with this; but only a few embrace it and want to learn. I feel there is a big misunderstanding that having grey hair stifles fresh thinking somehow. I see young people so close minded and ‘old school’ than I ever was, yet they are the first to be prejudiced without truly understanding a person’s capabilities or their considered reasons for decisions.  

I do think there is a place for all. My ideal team is with some strong leadership and management with an experienced person at the helm doing less of the ‘hands on’. Experience that can only come from years in the role with a team under them that is tiered by skillset and expertise and with a larger junior and administration team. This can be more cost effective than a certain model that a lot of agencies run with mid weight individuals all doing their own thing in silos. In my experience it takes some tight hand-holding through every step of process with juniors until a skill is established, clear delineation of certain tasks, and then let them go - but be there to jump in when something needs roping in or they need a bouncing board. This solves both the overhead costs and keeping the experience in the business. In production there are too many expensive mistakes in the making and a lot of agency management also don’t realise how close they come sometimes."

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Simon Corbett - SlingShot Digital

MediaScope Brains Trust - Simon Corbett"The value of keeping older talent in agencies is so enormous that we absolutely should be putting structures and processes in place to ensure that we do just that.

With an ever ageing population, and let us not forget more disposable money sitting with them than any other sector, having people in the agency who can truly understand the attitudes, activities and behaviours of this (largest) consumer group is a tremendous advantage. While as an industry we seem to be consumed by the cult of youth and cool the fact is that it is baby boomers and beyond who offer the very best sales opportunities for many, many brands.

Will we keep them? We certainly won’t if we continue to treat staff so poorly. We at Slingshot are absolute advocates, and practitioners of, ‘heart’ intelligence for all our people. Put simply this means that we have empathy at the heart of the agency and as our core value. People have lives and loves outside of the agency and it is our duty of care to all our people that they have a healthy work / life balance and that there is no stigma around leaving the office at 6pm and having your full holiday entitlement. Unless this becomes the norm what hope do we have in keeping people in the agency game?"

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Tim Nicholas - Marketing Bytes Blog

MediaScope Brains Trust - Tim Nicholas"It's a great time for people with more than 15 years experience in the marketing and advertising industry. Digital is disrupting how our industry operates as much as it's disrupting consumer's interaction with brands. This is creating so many wonderful opportunities for mature and experienced people to utilise their business and marketing craftsmanship to create 'new solutions to old problems'.
 
Most marketer's challenges haven't drastically changed since the days of 'Mad Men': launch a new brand, enter a new market, revive an ailing brand, build a prospects database, grow sales from existing customers, reduce churn, etc. The old hands have successfully seen and done this before, plus know a thing or two about what makes the customer tick. Add to the mix existing and emerging technologies, and marketers have never had such a smorgasbord of talent to help them attract, acquire and retain a customer."

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Tony Simms - Consulting to Agency & Marketing Teams

MediaScope Brains Trust - Tony Simms"Most group photos of agency staff clearly show that careers have an early use-by date. (see below right)

In the last few years I have spoken to many in their nervous 30’s who struggle to see a future in their career.  Perhaps it is due to the agency obsession with “bright new shiny things” which unfortunately is also transferred to people. Not surprisingly, many clients still hunger for a variety and depth of business experiences, insights and skills from their agency, to tap into the increasingly complex buying behaviour of consumers…..many of whom are over 35. In the light of the rapidly growing number of consumers over 35, current agency staffing models appear to be losing their value.

So where are the opportunities to continue to work in the industry so keen to maintain its youthful image? Agency and marketing teams are increasingly thin on experience and under huge financial pressure to deliver more with less experienced teams. At the same time, there are huge numbers of highly experienced people with current skills who have unfortunately been pushed out of the industry.MediaScope Brains Trust - Long Term Career Prospects in Media

The good news is that both agencies and marketing teams have the opportunity to access a wide range of mentors who should be ideally retained on a part time basis. These mentors offer the ability to grow, stretch and challenge teams. They add real value and depth to a team’s offering. Perhaps then, everyone can move past the poorly conceived idea that we are only an industry for under 35’s."

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Harris Madden - Executive Search & Recruitment

MediaScope Brains Trust - Harris Madden"Media attracts a lot of very bright young people. This is natural because it is an industry that thrives on creativity, intelligence and innovation. The emergence and proliferation of digital has added significantly to this. There are fewer 'old world' people in the business now who 'just don’t get it' but digital natives have a clear, inherent advantage. So, it is not unexpected that broadcasters, publishers, agencies and marketing departments, both digital and otherwise, have a voracious appetite for talented young people. Some companies even build their culture and employer brand around age . . . 'come join our young, vibrant culture'. But as a person who has been involved in recruiting for the industry, and as a director and business advisor, I've also seen other sides to the story. Some very capable people, because of their age, have missed out on roles they were clearly the best candidate for.

Experience is sometimes not valued or indeed even recognized – and it can be easily overlooked in favour of youthfulness. As a general rule, the more senior the role, the less likely this is to happen. It’s a bit like the snakes and ladders game. Some very talented young people have got ahead very quickly, perhaps much faster than they would in another industry. Some more experienced people have found themselves under-utilized, often very suddenly. Oops! Did I just show my age by mentioning snakes and ladders? OK, don’t listen to me, WTF would I know :-) "

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Mike Fitzgerald - Media & Sponsorship Sales

MediaScope Brains Trust - Mike Fitzgerald"Having been in advertising for the past 30 years it certainly seems to lend itself to the 22-40 yr olds. Whether in agency or sales the hours are long, the work intense and the stress is constant.

It’s an exciting fast paced industry that provides brilliant opportunities for those prepared to put in the hours and the effort. The rewards are there for anyone who works hard.  Highly paid trading directors responsible for $10’s/$100’s of millions of their clients’ money, many well under 30.

But what happens when your well into that demographic that you’ve either bought or sold for years the 55+’s. Have you had enough? Has the stress and fast pace burnt you out.

What’s this industry have to offer then? If you’ve still got a good job, look over your shoulder because there will be some young gun with his sights firmly fixed on your position.

But hold the fort! I recently started my own business, a media representation company, and yes I’m in the 55+ demo. I’m loving it, still have heaps of energy and enthusiasm for this industry so far so good and happy to work another 10 years.

Concentrating on representing my clients I am now back to doing the same work as when I started my career at Channel Seven 30 years ago as a sales rep.  Making appointments with planner buyers and getting into agencies to pitch. The advertising industry can be hard to crack however if you have relationships it makes it a lot easier, and fortunately there are still many people well into the 55+ demo in agency land that I have dealt with for 30+years.

Getting back to basics and getting into agencies and in touch with buyers/planners/managers etc. has been great. Whereas I am meeting with a lot of 23-30 yrs olds I’m also dealing with a lot of the same people that I have dealt with since starting in advertising.

The industry has changed so much, especially in the last 10 years but if you’re still interested in staying in advertising it’s not that hard to keep up with the changes. Sure the 25-39s may dominate the industry and so they should but there is plenty of  knowledge and experience still available to agencies and the media from the 55+’s and why would any industry want to lose such an awesome bank of knowledge held by this demo. Providing there is the desire to keep working (along with of course, the ability) I don’t see why this industry shouldn’t be able to sustain a solid proportion of the more senior members of the industry, even when the retirement age is changed.

Agencies and the Media need to keep senior people in the industry for their experience and the ability to mentor and pass on much of what they know to the new generation of senior media executives that will be run this industry for the next 30 years."

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Ross Howarth - Kinesis Media

Brains Trust - Ross HowarthThere are numerous opportunities in the media industry for the Under 35s to reach high levels of responsibility with high levels of remuneration and, in many cases, well before 35.   Does that mean they are a spent force post 35?   Certainly not.     For every Under 35 there needs to be an Over 35 to teach, to critique, to guide and to pass on the valuable experience that only many years in our industry can provide.   

The pace of change in communications technology is dynamic.  Keeping pace with these changes creates an image that only the energetic U35s can match that pace. But that can be an illusion  --  just keeping pace is one thing but understanding these changes is as much about appreciating where they have come from and how they can fit into the ever changing matrix of communications opportunities.  

Consider a current 26 year old who entered the industry in his/her late teens.  At that time, the term “social media” was not part of our lexicon.   Television advertising accounted for the largest slice of the media spend pie.   Online expenditure was virtually nil but, in that very short time, it has now raced ahead of television.   This and other changes are massive and require experienced heads with an innate feel for the industry to understand how the ever expanding number of media options can interact and what will be the future impact and role of these emerging elements.

Today’s Under 35s (my kids) have been keyboard literate from their earliest school days.   Their parents (me) were schooled in an era pre-computers and did not have the necessity to acquire that skill until well into their working years.  It is the expectation of Under 35s to have data delivered to them, calculations made for them, and now (worse still) buying decisions automated for them.   Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and the exciting opportunities presented but it must not supplant thinking, reasoning, common sense and application of experience to optimise the effect of these new elements.

The energy, ambition and  enthusiasm of youth coupled with the wisdom and consideration of older heads --  the perfect recipe for the continuation of our dynamic industry.

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Sally Mills - LaVolta Digital Recruitment

MediaScope Brains Trust - Sally MillsI don't think our industry is just for under 35's as the experience us oldies have gained is so valuable :) but as technology continues to streamline systems and processes, there is a gap which only looks to grow unfortunately often affecting what we term middle management.

I think we'll always have a need for strategists/thought leaders to guide the teams and I think young people entering the industry is vital as they're the new brains. 

It's worth noting that contractor & freelance roles will continue to grow as companies outsource more and more and you can undertake tasks virtually anywhere in the world.   It's rare that you have a job for life these days unless you're in the government/public sector and gone are the gold watches of appreciation for long service.

The big question is remaining relevant and equipping yourself with a number of skills that you can apply and adapt to a very fast paced changing environment what ever age you are.

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John Blondin - Media Titles

MediaScope Brains Trust - John BlondinCreative flair and opportunism have no age barriers. When blended with knowledge gained from information simply enabled in this age of instant communication and technological growth there will always be models which compliment the brief to advise, inform, engage and/or generate sales. These will offer the ingredients for future success. For younger aspirants looking to glean that gold nugget listen to successful operators , observe successful brands, build a bank of knowledge, take good notes, harness information and establish strong networks. The future will be a variation, with many useful tools, on the industry theme... communication.

 

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If you'd like to share your views feel free to add your comments below or get in touch to be part of MediaScope's 'Brains Trust'.

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Further 'Brains Trust' Resources

  • Brains Trust: Future of Media Sales - We've asked the MediaScope network 'How do you see media sales developing over the next 5 years and what should media sales specialists do to prepare?'

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