Hoffman makes an argument for creativity coming from people over 50 by highlighting how elder members of society “dominate in Nobels, Pulitzers, Oscars, and Emmys.” The recognition leads Hoffman to wonder, “Is there another industry on earth that is as steeped in intolerance and as thoroughly isolated from reality as the ad industry?”
Before answering that question, it might be helpful to consider a few points.
First, Hoffman’s argument is not original, as evidenced by AgencySpy spotlighting a 51-year-old creative director who hatched a campaign celebrating senior successes to protest ageism in advertising. Not surprisingly, the campaign generated the same types of pep-rally comments that Hoffman received from his post.
Second, Hoffman seems oblivious to the diversity of the ultra-award-winning creators he saluted. Such racial and ethnic variety is not reflective of the U.S. advertising industry (or the U.K. advertising industry). The 51-year-old creative director, on the other hand, chose to feature a predominately White group of creators, whose works are not as highly regarded as the breakthroughs from Hoffman’s honorees.
Third, Hoffman and the 51-year-old creative director are using a platform typically employed by advocates for racial and ethnic diversity. For example, it’s often noted how cutting-edge concepts in music, fashion, art and language originate from Black culture. FYI, this platform has not succeeded in improving Black representation on Madison Avenue—or even increasing the crumbs tossed to Black advertising agencies. Nonetheless, embracing the “old-people-are-innovators” angle could be considered a form of cultural appropriation.
Answering Hoffman’s question—“Is there another industry on earth that is as steeped in intolerance and as thoroughly isolated from reality as the ad industry?”—might not play well with Hoffman and the 51-year-old creative director, but it demands being addressed anyway.
The intolerance and aversion to reality so prevalent in the ad industry are products successfully perfected, promoted and perpetuated by guys like Hoffman and the 51-year-old creative director—i.e., Old White Guys. The denial of this fact could be a sign of early dementia, but probably (and hopefully) not. It must be painful to suddenly find oneself on the opposite side of the equation. Yet will the uncomfortable experience inspire the primary perpetrators to become fully inclusive change agents? Now that would be a revolutionary achievement for the ages.