“Consumers who are 50 plus years-old spend $7 billion online annually,” and they are also the demographic that controls 80 percent of the wealth. So says Brent Bouchez, a founding partner of Five0, an agency that crafts marketing messages to the 45 to 65 age group. But Bouchez contends that this demographic is increasingly disrespected by advertisers, both in messaging and in agency staff hires. Upon watching the Super Bowl ads two years ago, Bouchez noted that, “Not one Super Bowl commercial featured a person over 50 that wasn’t the brunt of a joke about age.” Further, Bouchez argues, “While most advertisers believe consumers over 50 are stuck in their ways and don’t try new brands, aPEWCenterstudy showed that people in their 20s and 30s were actually more averse to trying new brands and products than were people in their 50s.” The world is getting older but advertising agencies are out of touch.
Another sore point for Bouchez and others is that advertising agencies discriminate against older, seasoned advertising professionals, preferring instead to hire younger, less knowledgeable upstarts who claim to have “digital” experience. Some contend that the very word “digital” in a job advertisement is code for “young.” Advertising Age chronicled the story of Dave Shea, 56, a former creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, who spent the better part of last year looking for a job. Even as he claimed to have digital experience, he felt that ageism played a major role in squeezing him out of the hiring pool. But others argued against the ageism complaints. Back in the day, people in their 50s could retire thanks to generous benefit plans. That’s no longer the case. Also, back in the day, the marketplace was less complex and more able to sustain mediocre work and workers. Today’s marketplace wants more. And one more thing, in today’s global work environment people in their 50s may not be nimble enough for the demands. And the discussion continues.