Over-50s must fight generation game

Back in the late Seventies, with youth unemployment rife, strikes crippling the country, and the Far Right returning, the punk movement inspired a generation to rise up and kick-back against the Establishment. Of course, for most it was a fleeting act of rebellion and once they hit their 20s, like any other generation, they became shop-workers, builders, accountants, bankers and solicitors, while others opted for a career in the creative industries.
Fast-forward to 2011, with youth unemployment rife, strikes crippling the country and the Far Right returning, the ones who opted for a creative career are once again finding themselves with ‘No Future’. The recent IPA Census of member agencies confirms the trend, with just 5.3 per cent of agency staff being aged over 50.
Was it ever thus, you may ask. But, just because it’s always been the case, does it mean it has to continue?
Of course, agencies are not the only places where over 50s are scarce. How many trade journalists do you speak to who are over 40, let alone 50? All too often creative companies are not willing to pay for years of experience, preferring instead to replace senior people with two, sometimes even three, junior staff on a fraction of the salary.
Top brand owners are no different. Once you become group marketing director, you might as well turn your spare room into an office because it won’t be too long until you will be sitting in there every waking hour trying to scratch a living as a consultant.
But, other than getting out the old punk albums and screaming out White Riot and Anarchy in the UK, is there anything that 50-somethings can do? As a recent member of the 50s club myself, should we all just accept our lot, go on Saga holidays and get a job at B&Q?
The very fact that you are reading this (you haven’t dropped off have you?) shows there is life after 50 for me; admittedly only a few weeks in but you have to start somewhere. Yet with the population living longer and the retirement age moving further towards 70, isn’t it about time all those years of experience were put to good use instead of being put out to grass?
We hear a lot about the strength of the so-called ‘grey pound’. Apparently the over 50s are the ones with all the cash yet the vast majority of the marketing and advertising community who are devising campaigns to target them are in their 20s. Now call me old-fashioned – call me what you like in fact – but wouldn’t it make much more sense to have people working on campaigns who are actually part of the target market?
OK, I’ll shut up; now where did I put my pipe and slippers…

Charlie McKelvey, publishing editor (charlie.mckelvey@decisionmarketing.co.uk)

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