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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Agency bosses too old and change resistant

If I had a £ for every time somebody says to me: “the reason that marketing is youth-centric is that agency staff are all young” I would be a wealthy man. I would be even wealthier still if I also got a £ for every time somebody tells me this fact and then expects me to be surprised.

I have to say that I haven’t heard the statement about agency bosses being too old before. An interesting observation you might say, but even more so when it comes from a Mr M Sorrell (aged 64). I guess what he is saying is that it is all the other agency bosses, but not him, that are too old.

Of course what he is saying is probably true. I guess it is summed up by his statement: “WPP isn't an advertising business anymore.” Advertising was so yesterday, today, digital rules.

"The people who run agencies tend to be of an older vintage - to put it politely," said Sorrell. "They tend to be resistant to change and want to spend the last three to four years of their careers travelling around the world rather than dealing with fundamental strategic issues on a daily basis."

I have never subscribed to the argument that you can blame agencies’ focus on Yoof because the average age of their staff is just pushing 30 years old. Of course it is part of the problem, but the far more important issue is that agency staff, of all ages, tends to be a conservative, risk averse bunch; even thought they think the are totally the opposite.

Agency staff, and most of their clients, find it impossible to think outside the 18-35 ABC1 box. Sure, within that box they come up with zany ideas and innovative uses for digital technologies. but most of them have a ‘c’ for conservative stamped through their creative soul. Sad really, but I guess agencies attract these sorts of people. When they get older they become even more conservative as Mr S observers. Dick Stroud

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