Age, experience or both

40 Over Forty's Anna Dalziel on how adland is changing its ageist attitudes

The narrative around ageing is changing and brands have this on their agenda. Earlier this year the Body Shop rebranded one of their best-selling products, ‘Drops of Youth’ to ‘Edelweiss’ and removed any mention of ‘anti-ageing’ from products worldwide. Why? Because ageing isn’t a problem to be fixed and the Body Shop, along with other brands, woke up to this fact.

Mark Twain said “Do not complain about growing old. It is a privilege.” Yet somewhere along the line the word ‘age’ has lost its actual meaning of ‘a length of time that a person has lived;’ this new implication has fallen into lazy stereotypes and lost its way in the media, marketing and advertising industry.

Over the last year I’ve seen brands making bolder steps to unpack me from the box they had once put me in. As a woman in my forties, I had been poorly targeted and misrepresented by many advertising campaigns for years. An inaccurate and unflattering mirror that has been held up for far too long. However, I must admit, I’ve noticed brands have started to approach age with a fresh perspective. And it’s not only brands. I can see this shift gaining momentum within adland.

For too long growing older and ageing in the media, marketing and advertising industry was considered a negative

An IPA census revealed in 2021 that the average age of employees in creative agencies is just 36, which is ridiculous and not representative of the workforce in the UK at all. I feel like most people are really finding their stride at this age. I’ve seen that far too often though as people pass the age of 36, they start to disappear, either physically by leaving the industry, or metaphorically as they didn’t feel ‘seen’ by anyone. They weren’t represented on industry panels, winning industry accolades or even in pitches. They were invisible. This is why we created 40 Over Forty three years ago, to give a platform to people who were not being celebrated. Three years on and we are now seeing others follow our lead, with many publications creating 40 over 40 and 50 over 50 lists, it’s so great to see!

Yet what I’ve learnt over the past three years and through my career is that age and experience are two very different things. Experience, which is often linked with ageing, but not exclusive to it, is about the knowledge and skills acquired in certain activities. I can see how age and experience are starting to be split in marketing. Words that have held distorted meanings for decades are being readdressed.

The Advertising Association’s last All In Census surveyed revealed 40% of the industry aged 45-54 feel age limits their career. How can all this experience be disregarded and untapped? This is why we launched a ‘Shared Experiences’ policy, which isn’t focused on someone’s age but rather their experience and what each person can learn from each other. It demonstrates the value of knowledge and skills being exchanged, no matter someone’s age and shows everyone is being seen and heard, they are not invisible, and they feel valued.

Age is just a number. Experience is something that is unique to every single person. It’s what makes us individuals and what makes it vital for experience diversity to exist within all business, even in adland! We are living in a world that is breaking down barriers and age is one of the last ‘isms’ that needs to be tackled so experience can be acknowledged and shared.

Featured image: Henri Pham / Unsplash

Anna Dalziel, Founder of 40 Over Forty

Anna is the Founder of 40 Over Forty, the first global platform that acknowledges and celebrates those who are 40 plus in the advertising, media and marketing industry, launched in January 2020. She’s also a mentor for SheSay’s ‘Who’s Your Momma’ in the UK and has over 20 years of international marketing experience.In her role at Momentum Worldwide Anna is responsible for the planning, development and implementation of the marketing strategies, marketing communications, new business and public relations activities, both internally and externally. Anna also launched a programme of well-being, community and diversity initiatives within Momentum Worldwide to further champion inclusion in the industry. Her mantra is to get sh*t done and own it! Everyone who works with Anna not only feels inspired but also valued.

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