‘Not easy to get a job past 40’: How ageism at agencies affects older employees

Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Chris Thilk is 44 years old. It’s been three years since he was let go from full-time agency work, and he has yet to find another full-time gig. That’s not for lack of trying, as he has applied to hundreds of jobs over the years. With 15 years of experience in the business, Thilk believes his age and experience level are hurting, rather than helping him in his quest for a new job. 

“It wasn’t too long after I started applying for other open positions — including many at agencies — that I realized there was a big, fat thumb on the scales of the application process,” wrote Thilk in an email. “Listings said they were looking for candidates with two-plus years of experience who had managed at least three major brands. I had all that and more. What I soon realized was that they meant someone with just two years of experience.” 

Advertising is known for its youth obsession — look no further than Advertising Week programming, millennials are out and Gen Z is in — but that’s to the detriment of aging agency employees. Those employees are not only affected by age discrimination in agency culture but find it harder and harder to land the next job. 

The fee-based agency business model — currently under more pressure than ever with fewer agency-of-record assignments, longer payment windows, clients going in-house, among other market realities — has long been dependent on cheaper talent. Teams at agencies rely on armies of younger (cheaper) employees, along with a smattering of more senior-level staffers. It makes experience a commodity. And as agencies need to staff up and down with the number of clients currently on their roster, and fluctuate due to wins and losses, agency economics are in favor of younger (cheaper) employees.

“It’s definitely not easy to get a job past 40,” said Sandy Rubinstein, CEO of full-service digital ad agency, DXagency, adding that there is an assumption when she walks in a room that due to her gray hairs she’s unable to understand digital. 

Agency sources believe there’s more conversation than ever about ageism — especially in recent weeks following creative exec Duncan Milner’s wrongful termination suit against TBWA, which was first reported by Adweek earlier this month. Known for his work for Apple, Milner was terminated by TBWA last June as the agency reportedly said it couldn’t afford his salary anymore and that it no longer had a position for him. That came after Milner was replaced as CCO of the shop, instead named the global chief creative president of MAL/For Good.

But even with the buzz about Milner and renewed conversation about ageism, agency sources don’t believe that discussion has enacted real change yet to combat ageism within agencies. According to Digiday Research, 54% of employees with more than 15 years of experience believe they’ve experienced ageism at agencies and 43% of employees surveyed believe they’ve experienced ageism...

Full Article @ https://digiday.com/marketing/not-easy-get-job-past-40-ageism-agencies-affects-older-employees/