In today’s digital world, many advertising agencies have a two-fold recruiting strategy:

  1. Focus on attracting the brightest, most tech-savvy talent on the market, typically “digital natives” who are tailor-made for agency life.
  2. When hiring for management and senior-level positions, focus on candidates primarily under the age of 45.

The advertising industry is definitely getting younger. Over the past 13 years, the median age of an advertising industry employee has fallen by three years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of an advertising industry employee is 39. To further illustrate the point, 52 percent of advertising industry employees are between the ages of 25 and 44, whereas only 16 percent of advertising industry employees are above 55.

These stats raise an important question: Should you be actively recruiting candidates aged 55+?

The New Old School

Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your recruiting model. In today’s highly competitive talent market chock-full of talented, young go-getters and highly accomplished executives, an opportunity exists to adjust your recruiting approach.

Many agency veterans who are currently being passed over still have plenty of high-performance fuel left in their tanks. At the age when most people are traveling, playing golf, and checking off items on their bucket lists, these folks still have a passion for agency work.

Is it a gamble to hire this type of candidate? That all depends. Many variables go into a search. Experience is a big one. Beyond that, it really boils down to fit — for the position, for the culture, for the business — regardless of age.

All Aboard the Experience Train

Let’s examine the experience factor. Can it be overlooked? Ignored? Possibly. Especially with candidates from, shall we say, a higher age demographic. Perhaps it’s not politically — or HR — correct to say, but the reality is that agency veterans’ resumes don’t always get due consideration, no matter how many skins they have on the wall.

Pay heed, though. These candidates bring with them boxcars full of relevant, transferable experience. Their well-established, practical, working-agency knowledge often includes:

- Managing agency organizations of all sizes
- Developing, managing, and leading major accounts and client relationships
- An understanding of agency dynamics and how they affect the business and clients
- Ability to anticipate client needs and offer actionable solutions
- Leveraging long-standing relationship for business development

Also, these folks cut their teeth on legendary brands that remain relevant today. They bring with them an understanding of brand development, the inherent value of a brand, and a brand’s connection to its consumers.

The Human Growth Factor

Another important reason to consider this class of candidates is their ability to mentor and nurture employees, from junior staff all the way up to executives.

Having come from traditional advertising backgrounds, these candidates can take a more strategic view without getting buried in the day-to-day tactical trenches. They can diagnose situations that younger staff may consider dire, such as looming deadlines, an unexpected client ask, or internal resource issues. Because they have been there and done that so many times in their careers, they are better equipped to help the staff step back, dissect the issue objectively, and proceed in a manner that benefits the client, the agency, and the team.

At the management level, executives get mired in managerial muck. As mentoring relates to them, hiring a 55+ employee can be like having an in-house management coach — one who can help the leadership team get a better grasp on how to structure the agency and develop realistic plans for a more productive and efficient organization.

Paying It Forward

These candidates are poised to be immediate key contributors to your organization for many reasons, including:

- They can assist management in gaining a fresh perspective on the business and how to functionally improve it.
- They’re able to bring multiple resources together as a cohesive and synergistic unit.
- They’re equipped to assemble and lead integrated new business pursuit teams and shape a compelling pitch.

It’s worth adding the gratitude these employees exude is infectious. Whether advising on organizational or process changes, mentoring staff, or impacting the bottom line, they deliver tangible benefits. They are paying it forward in meaningful ways. The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment derived from their ongoing contributions is not limited to the employees themselves — everyone shares the fruit. It’s a real win-win situation.

Tony Osterhaus is CDO of Imaginuity.

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