Agency Insiders Confirm That ‘Ageism’ Exists in the Ad Industry

By Patrick Coffee 

In case you missed it, yesterday we posted a story that was really a question: race and gender issues aside, does the ad industry discriminate against older people??

The post inspired quite a few comments, and the conclusion was pretty much universal: Yes, it does.

Here are the anonymous takes we received in response to that post.

“I’m a 45 year old woman with 20 years agency experience who was laid off from my senior media position. I have been unable to secure even an interview, let alone a job, for four months.”


“Totally agree with age discrimination in the agency world of females over 50. I am a female, mid career, have worked for all of the four big holding companies and could not find one senior level, over 50 female mentor in any of them.”


“Re: Agency discrimination against people over 50. The recently ex-chief creative officer at [a New York agency] was notorious for only wanting young people. In other words, fawning admirers (or sycophants) who would stay until 2am while he opined for hours over scotch.”


“The phrase 60 is the new 50, 50 is the new 40 etc,  there’s real truth to that. This includes intellectual depth, rigor, hunger (how many folks have lost their retirement or simply can’t?), and effectiveness. This is one of the few industries where wisdom counts for nothing. Shameful, really. Hope this shifts in the same direction as gender bias.”


“In 2014, [agency], part of [major holding company], had layoffs. The majority were in their 50’s or approaching 50. Oh they threw in a couple of younger folks, but make no mistake, the layoffs were to eliminate ‘tenured’ employees.”

This one was particularly illuminating:

“As a 50+ female creative, I  say when people don’t work hard or keep up with trends, they SHOULD be left behind.

This business is about knowing the (constantly changing) culture and participating it!  The problem is too many people just assume that if you’re over 50 you don’t get it and you don’t work hard.  That’s why it’s called discrimination. I do leave work  early-ish sometime to see family, but I pull out my laptop after dinner and get back to work.  Strangely, the same people who insist they can work at Starbucks, the park or whatever are often the first to assume if you’re not sitting at your desk you’re not working.

Discrimination to older creatives, especially older female creatives, is VERY REAL.  Before you jump to the conclusion that someone must not get it because they’re older than you are, or assume someone is doing nothing if they’re not at the office, take a minute to find out if that’s accurate.”

Only one person really pushed back against the central idea, writing:

“I’ve worked at smaller agencies all over the US and they were all staffed primarily by ‘older’ creatives. The agencies still did award-winning work comparable to the big places. There is an advertising world outside of NYC, LA, San Fran, and Chicago.”

That’s a pretty interesting take too, no?

In summary, older people in creative and accounts departments do seem to face a greater risk of termination, especially if they’re not in executive-level positions.

That said, many agencies do continue to employ such individuals — and sometimes their concerns about the relative value of employees in different age groups may be based on something other than a tendency to dismiss those 45 and over for no other reason than the fact that they are a little older.

Now we have a good idea for a trend piece.