Time for 50+ to Make a Comeback

There was a great sea change not too long ago with the hiring of Bill Crandall at Della Femina Rothschild Jeary + Partners as its new CMO. Bill is in his mid-50s and, given this is the ad industry, would ordinarily have been passed over for a much younger executive. However, agency chairman, CEO Jerry Della Femina must have realized in his infinite wisdom, that experience and most important life experience that comes with age should be treasured over youthful ebullience.

In addition, new business development hires at four major ad agencies are in their mid- to late-40s.

Too often in the ad world, younger people are hired instead of older ones, and there is a belief that youth in and of itself is good. However, the near 80-million strong baby boomer market, of which I’m a part, and where consumers spend billions of dollars, is still very important — and perhaps should be spoken to by people actually part of that generation.

Twitter away yes, but my generation understands loyalty to brands with which they’ve grown up, never wavering on what we buy and have in our homes. Without this loyalty, I would argue, Crest toothpaste would not have raised a generation, McDonald’s burgers and fries would never have grown to such iconic status and Ovaltine would never have lasted. There are, of course, many other products that baby boomers have stood by over the years; these are just the tip of the iceberg.

So let’s take a breath, and before everyone ends up in skateboard heaven, there’s a whole group of consumers out there that should be attended to and represented in the agency executive suites. Youth has its ideals, but the baby boomer generation has its rich storied history that is a treasure of experiences, full of memorable events and pivotal changes in our country. We have grown and yes we are getting older, but we are smarter and wiser, and because of this process of life seasoning we have something to offer that is valuable to the business of advertising.

There have been the passing of many advertising icons — James Heekin, Guy Day, Gerald Atkin and others who represent the best that advertising has to offer. With their passing and many ad veterans in retirement or moving on, we are losing the very essence of knowledge and advertising greatness that has built our industry. There is a dearth of charisma, character, grittiness, realness and leadership that is needed, not to mention mentors.

This is not to say there aren’t many talented people in the field today who should be respected and honored for their excellent work. However, the general lament online (postings, blogs) seems to be a need to emulate the way the original founders ran their ad shops — their leadership, attention and care towards their employees who, after all, are the reason this whole thing works.

The baby boomer generation should be able to fill these shoes. We understand the value of the human endeavor, that we are all people, not automatons.

Obviously, not all of us, but enough to bring back the warmth, intuitiveness and essence that made working in advertising great a generation ago. Our parents have taught us well and they have instilled values that are based on the human spirit. Hopefully the hiring of more veteran ad executives of late will enhance and bring back the specialness we all crave and strive for in our challenging and evolving field of advertising.

Karl Jacobson is director of business development at Tandem Marketing.