Good news - or is it? IPA Agency Census reveals that agency staff are getting younger
The IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) has today published the main findings of its 2009 Agency Census (http://www.ipa.co.uk). This annual survey is described (by the IPA) as ‘the definitive annual agency survey of employment trends in media, advertising and marketing communications agencies’.
And the good news is that year-on-year the average age of agency employees has increased, as has the percentage of employees aged over 50. Or perhaps it isn’t such good news after all. Let’s look at the figures:
- 45.2% of agency employees are aged under 30 (2008 – 47.6%)
- 5.2% of agency employees are aged over 50 (2008 – 5%)
- The average age of employees is 33.7 (2008 – 33.3)
- The employed base has declined by 7.4%, driven mainly by a decline in employees aged under 25 and first-year trainees
As Hamish Pringle, the Director General of the IPA comments, this has been ‘the toughest period for agencies in living memory.’. It is hardly surprising that the recruitment of graduates and younger people has declined and of course this is the reason for the extremely small increases in employee age. Certainly, there is no evidence of a drive by agencies to recruit on the basis of age and experience! In fact, I suspect that there has actually been a decline in the number of older employees.
The comparative youth of people working in agencies is often given as the reason behind ageism in advertising and marketing communications, whereby according to some researchers ‘despite all the evidence, advertisers continue to pursue youth.’
The average age of adults in the UK is now 45 – not 33. The mainstream has been ageing for the past 30 years and will continue to do so. How you can have any interest, empathy or insight into older consumers, when you live in a ghetto of youth, fashion and cool? As the census itself acknowledges, agencies have some way to go in terms of diversity - so full marks for honesty.
For many years, the required attributes for agency staff have included creativity, energy, enthusiasm and vibrancy, not to mention a direct connection with the zeitgeist. These attributes have become associated with youthfulness.
That’s why we formed rhc advantage: to offer high levels of expertise, based upon understanding and insight of older audiences, delivered by talented people who are themselves older (but are not yet disconnected from the zeitgeist).