By Chris Hill
Putting my foot down…
I’m going over sixty. And do you know what? I don’t care.
In fact, I fancy going up a gear.
As Cindy Gallop quite rightly says, it’s important to #SayOurAge
I’m 60, and I’m proud of the experience I’ve gained. I’m proud that the life lessons I’ve learned mean I’m now a far better problem solver than I ever was. I’m proud to be able to pass on the knowledge I’ve gained. And I’m very proud of all the students that I’ve mentored over the years at SCA, who are now bagging gongs like gung-ho grouse shooters on August the 12th.
But interestingly, while there’s always a clamour to hire SCA graduates, I’ve noticed that there seems to be something of a lack of interest in employing the services of some of the mentors who helped them develop their skills and learn their trade.
Why? For one, because it seems Headhunters take one look at our CVs and struggle to get past the first line.
In fact, the complaint I’ve heard most often is that many recruiters don’t even have the courtesy to email back if they trip over a D.O.B. pre-something like 1983.
(One that did finally get back to me said, “All the poster, press and TV stuff you’ve done is great – but do you think you could write an email?”)
And agencies, quite understandably, are keen to show a fresh young face to the world – advertising having always been seen as ‘a young person’s game’. And so it should be.
But I think they may be missing a trick.
Without experienced mentors around them every day, the young students at SCA would struggle to sort the wheat from the chaff and spot the insight that can lead to a great, original solution. And without learning from the skills their mentors have perfected over the years, they would take 10 times as long to craft an elegant piece of work.
And often, a lot of them suffer the same problems when they arrive on placement, or in their first position. Because, as hugely talented as they are, they suddenly don’t have enough experienced people to turn to for advice. Because Creative Directors are very busy people. And because the rest of the department are pretty much the same age.
So, what if agencies forgot the numbers, and started to see us not as ‘old’ creatives but as experienced mentors, who can not only be on hand to craft a great piece of work themselves, but also perform a vital role in ensuring that the young teams they’ve taken on live up to their fantastic potential. Fast.
The best football teams, as far as I can see, are usually created by spotting the potential of youth, and ensuring there’s the odd ‘older head’ around to help them develop, build confidence and learn the tricks of the trade.
Which seems a reasonable plan to me.
I count myself lucky to still work with people who have created some of the best campaigns of the last 20 or 30 years, including the many fantastic mentors at SCA. And I think agencies should count themselves lucky to have that sort of talent at their disposal too.
When you’re freelance, direct clients, in my experience, don’t give a flying one about age, as long as they get great, well considered, hard-working solutions.
So it would be nice to think that, in a world that is (or certainly should be) embracing diversity in all its forms, ad agencies in the future might consider ‘people of a certain age’ as an under-represented group too.
I may be going over 60. But I’m not going without a fight.