From The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2013
According to the local mining lore here, senior geologists tend to do their work the old-fashioned way. They avoid radar technology, preferring instead to examine termite and ant mounds...They're famous in the often cutthroat industry for their efficiency.Advertising has too many people who know radar technology and not enough people who have examined ant mounds and fossilized worm-borrows.
"I only hire old geologists," says Norman Slater, managing director of Slater Coal,.... People such as Kevin Petzer, a 65-year-old Zimbabwean who still roams South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia from his base in the KwaZulu-Natal province in eastern South Africa. Mr. Petzer, who emphasizes that he also has mastered conventional scientific methods, studies ant heaps, fossilized worm-burrows and flowers...
Mining executives say that while they chuckle about the quirks of older geologists, they recognize the business value of their memory of previous exploratory work, their grasp of complex rock formations and their discipline in knowing how to meticulously chart new territory.
The result is that agencies are long on ideas and enthusiasm, and short on knowledge and wisdom.
The average young account planner or copywriter is very far from the selling process. She has no idea what it is like on the showroom floor selling a truck. Or on the road selling copier machines.
She thinks that cleverness and audacity are what consumers are interested in. She doesn't understand that advertising is just selling at a distance.
She believes in "conversations" and "communities" and "relationships" and whatever other fuzzy notions happen to be fashionable this year. She accepts conventional thinking -- regardless of how unproven or callow the prevailing conventions are. She lacks the skepticism that experience engenders.
I don't. I'm old. I've been around. I've seen what works and what doesn't work. I've heard all the cliches and I've seen all the miracle cures. I've taken the time to follow up on them and see how and if they align with reality.
I have worked in agencies for 40 years. I have worked with young people and old people. Now that I'm leaving the agency business, I can tell you the truth: There are plenty of stupid old people, and plenty of smart young people. But on the whole, older people understand advertising better than young people.
Young people are certainly in closer touch with pop culture. And if you think pop culture is what advertising is about, then have at it.
In a society in which half of consumer spending is done by people over 50; in which 75% of financial assets are controlled by people over 50; in which 62% of all new cars are bought by people over 50; in which 94% of all CPG categories are dominated by people over 50, the fact that the average agency has almost no one of this age is incomprehensible.
It is a testament to narcissism, delusion, prejudice and stupidity.