In a Washington Post article entitled "I’m 60. My boss is a 20-something. It’s awkward," 60-year-old Lisa Reswick discusses the trials, tribulations and challenges of working in an office where she takes orders from a boss whose mother is younger than she is.
She, of course, is one of the lucky ones. Especially in the youth-obsessed advertising industry where age discrimination runs rampant, with most everyone over the age of 30 experiencing age discrimination in one form or another. And where most anyone over 40 is basically banned from working inside an ad agency.
Age discrimination is bad enough for those who are of a certain age and doing all they can to "stay relevant" in a world that values youth over wisdom. But ad agency employees are not the only ones suffering from age discrimination in the marketing space. Brands do too.
Reswick explains, writing: “This obsession with young talent may be short-sighted...people older than 50 have double the discretionary spending power of any other age group. The average head of household is 52. The average new car buyer is 56. The average Mac user is 54. So marketers must appeal to older consumers and may soon regret banishing everyone who saw the Beatles sing 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' live on the 'Ed Sullivan Show.' In your 20s and 30s, it’s pretty hard to understand the mind-set, needs and tastes of those decades older."
Yes, the AARP has launched an ad agency specifically to help brands promote their products to the over 50 crowd, but that's not enough.
We need to do more.
Just how well do you think a 28-year-old can connect with a 56-year-old? Oh sure, the 28-year-old can refer to reams of research that will point to behaviors, traits and other indicators that might shed light on an effective marketing approach, but that's far removed from walking in that 56-year-old's shoes.
It's time for us all to dump the "clueless old person" attitude and realize these supposedly clueless old people have years and years and years of valuable experience that can be tapped for the betterment of the work that an agency does for its clients.
Because, let's be honest -- not every consumer is under 30. And face this fact: By 2020, it’s expected that 25% of U.S. workers will be older than 55. And they have a lot of money. Way more money, on average, than that hipster 32-year-old with whom you're so obsessed.