Living in London and New York and working in advertising I rarely see people over the age of fifty. My elders seem to be a secret population -- a growing, sizable, and wealthy group -- that I'm never exposed to, let alone have the pleasure of working alongside. This is one of the worst things about advertising right now.
Occasionally when I get to listen to some of the great wise folk of advertising, it quickly makes me realize how much we as an industry suffer from a lack of wisdom. We have incredible levels of vision, an abundance of precociousness, brilliant creativity, but as an industry we pretty much have no wisdom at all.
It's a problem, but it takes wisdom to realize how important wisdom is, so we don't notice it. And for many young leaders, how can you miss something you've never experienced?
It started to happen in the early 2000s -- expensive, wise people that hadn't grown up with Blackberries and expected long lunches and business class seats that didn't get open plan offices, were slowly removed from the business. We didn't notice it for quite some time because we were too busy playing with our new toys -- the internet, the banner ad, the microsite, and the iPhone. We had rallying cries to get digital folk on the pitch team. We'd fly hapless 24-year-olds around the world to ensure we had the voice of youth on the team, but we abandoned the voice of context.
It's now been such a long time, and we've completely forgotten what it's like to have someone in the room who objectively knows more. Who understands real clients' issues, and who above all else, can see the changes in advertising in the context of decades of what has happened before. We lazily assume that things have changed and their knowledge would be out of date now.
Instead we get mobile marketing experts, who with their five years of experience are seen as mobile advertising opinion leaders. And how can they not be? They've lived this stuff for three times longer than anyone else. We get social media gurus who seem to just be people, with the same common sense as everyone else, but they've spent time "learning social media best practices," while running large global campaigns.
It's gotten to the point that it's now possible to be in a room with 200 agency employees, earning millions of dollars in revenue, without a single person who can remember the advertising world pre-mobile days, let alone pre-computer.
Here are some of the clearest and most demonstrable problems that ensue.