Tuesday, April 24, 2018

14122: Aged Whine.

Veteran adman Bob Hoffman has joined the divertsity assembly against ageism in advertising with a recent blog post at The Ad Contrarian titled, “The Age Of Creativity.”

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Every time I see older ad workers (who are entirely white, BTW) talking about diversity now that it's a hot topic, I go over a timeline of what I picture their lives were like.

Ages 0 to 55:
"Getting hired in advertising is about talent, I don't see color, the lack of POC in advertising is because they don't know about it as a career, there just aren't enough educated minorities, job opportunities in advertising are about merit."

Age 55 and up: