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According to the ONS, three-quarters of the people employed in the marketing industry are under 45. Typically a sector at the forefront of new ideas, products and technologies, it’s perhaps not surprising that young people are attracted to working in the field. The technology element is particularly important…the majority of this age group has grown up with computers, smartphones and other technologies, and it’s little wonder that they know every aspect and function of devices the humble microchip supports.
As someone in the remaining 25%, given that I’m pushing 50 years of age, I may be a little slower (only a little, mind) when it comes to mastering the most popular technological advances and sought-after software. I emphasise that word: necessary. That word can be interpreted differently, depending on the user. For instance, at my age, I can effortlessly get through my day without posting image after image on Instagram, and I’m definitely not someone excited by Snapchat streaks nor the filters the platform constantly churns out. I am a TikTok fan, which makes me feel down with the kids, and I’m of the right age to be a Facebook user—another social media platform to which I dedicate some of my downtime. In this regard, I probably embody the average person my age, whether they work in the marketing industry or not.
I don’t mind that I’m the oldest one in the marketing agency I work for by a generation (well, most of the time I don’t). I enjoy bantz with the team and having young adult offspring means I can join in most conversations about trends and celebrity shenanigans.
My thoughts on the ONS statistics are that they represent a missed trick. Only a portion of products and services marketing teams of the UK advertise is for consumption by consumers aged 20-45.
Yes, young marketers are proficient at knowing all about new stuff, but only us oldies know about times gone by, and this can be relevant from time to time.
Not to mention the wisdom we bring, after years of being in the workplace. The experience from working in different roles and sectors, and enjoying a network that’s much bigger and more solid than someone who only graduated a few years ago. We know of things that worked first time round. Nostalgia can be lucrative, and the best ideas never go out of fashion.
I don’t think this imbalance is solely down to narrow-minded employers within the industry. Some of it, I think, is that the sector doesn’t appeal to people coming back to work after early retirement or those who are looking to retrain in their fifties and sixties. The assumption that older people wouldn’t be able to keep up with the fast-paced life of a marketing agency exists—from those working in it AND from jobseekers over 45 considering a career change.
Other sectors welcome older employees—such as within our judicial system, in government /the Lords, in finance and economics, and as top-tier university lecturers. Younger people in the same roles wouldn’t have the same credibility. It could be that marketing represents the opposite—that older people in the marketing sector may be seen as less credible, outdated, slower and uninformed.
I’ve always enjoyed being an ideas person, which, to me, is unrelated to my age. Following years of child-rearing and putting someone else’s needs before my own, it’s also easier for me to look at something from alternative points of view, rather than from where I sit in the universe. Having been on this earth for double the time of my colleagues, I have seen lots of scenarios play out. I’ve something to say on most subjects. These are assets to a marketing company, aren’t they?
Statistics show that a proportion of retirees are returning to the workplace, due to heightened living costs and diminishing pension values. Some of these could have been expert marketers in their day, or people who have successfully run their own brand; would they be overlooked by employers due to their age?
Age discrimination is easy to prove when you’re in a workplace, but it’s not such a doddle to demonstrate if it pops up during the hiring process—you may feel that your age worked against you, but how can you be sure? It’s not like the potential employer will tell you.
Young marketers are fantastic at what they do. But so are those twice (or three times) their age.