Thought Leadership

AI, ageism and the art of better briefing

Sandie Dilger, Chief Strategy Officer at TBWA\London is here to solve your workplace problems as BITE’s agony aunt

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


AI, ageism and the art of better briefing. As Sadie Dilger, Chief Strategy Officer at TBWA\London’s latest tranche of industry dilemmas underline, being open about the challenges you face is the key to growth

BITE’s agony aunt is back with her straight-talking and honest insights into the workplace dilemmas impacting the industry. Igniting a conversation which is particularly important in August; a time of the year when it is all too easy to feel disconnected from your work or feel like the only person in Europe on a deadline.

So rather than unravelling, doom scrolling or succumbing to the ‘Sunday Scaries’ take the time to listen to some solid advice for some universal challenges. Challenges that underline the importance of being open about the sharp edges of working in the creative industries and the power of opening up and leaning on the wisdom of others.

Q: Dear Sandie,

I am currently a junior copywriter; however, I started my career in adland a lot later than most of my colleagues, I worked in a completely different industry for years. I decided to go back to university and study advertising as a mature student, therefore, I have around 10-15+ years on most people my level.

My main concern is about the opportunities in the industry as someone who is older in a current junior position. Sometimes my ‘life experience’ can be seen as a disadvantage rather than an advantage, with people assuming I may not be in the know about trends as much as my younger colleagues.

I have noticed when it comes to any project aimed at Gen Z or heavily leaning on social media, I am the last person senior people ask for an opinion.

Are there any tactics I can adopt to get my managers to take me seriously as a person who is trying to learn a new craft and take on a new challenge? I want to be seen as a serious player within the team, not the token oldie.

A: I am sorry to hear that you’ve been the subject of some quite lazy stereotyping.

One of our greatest skills in the creative industry is being able to walk in the shoes of others, so in my view, life experience with all of its exposure to different people, societal shifts and opinions can only be a good thing for us.

Most of the cultural highlights of the summer like Elton at Glastonbury, Barbie at the cinemas, Bruce in Hyde Park and Wham on Netflix were likely born many years before you and show that even ‘oldies’ are shaping our current context and culture. Perhaps a sharing of these ‘timeless’ icons shaping culture with the wider agency might help dispel the perceptions of you as the ‘token oldie’.

It is interesting that you mention that you’re the last to get called on on social media projects. Insider Intelligence recently predicted that only 28% of Facebook users will be aged 18-34 by 2026. It’s a genuine myth that only young people use social media and another one that you could do well to correct amongst your colleagues.

Prejudice fighting aside, I have one other piece of advice. There’s a huge advantage to being on top of the latest developments on social platforms; what does best practice look like, what are the new and emerging formats that could be a canvas for our creativity etc. It’s hard for strategists and creatives to keep up yet there is so much to be gained from having a great working knowledge of the platforms in a world where we need to think platform first. If you have an interest and can position yourself as the ‘go to’ for platform knowledge, if I was your agency leadership, I’d be pulling you into every social media project that comes into the agency.

Q: Dear Sandie,

This one’s a simple one for you, but appears to be a big problem for me. How can I make my briefs better? I’m not getting much feedback from my seniors, but I am starting to get negative snarky comments from colleagues.

A: This one definitely isn’t simple. There’s always room to make briefs better, no matter who is writing them. In my view, the biggest flaw with briefs is that we see them as ‘information’ rather than ‘inspiration’. There’s room for the creative teams to get the information about the product or service as part of the briefing but it definitely doesn’t need to be in the brief.

Always remember that the brief is a creative act. There needs to be a leap of thinking in it. It could be something about culture (why do we never show blood in ads for period products) something about the consumer (we don’t exercise not because we fear exercise but because we fear judgement) or the brand/product (we’re generous because we make our product with a glass and a half of milk) or it could just be a really good framing of the problem (we need to get people to put one more thing in their shopping basket).

Finally, the brief is not your sole responsibility. In fact, crafting it totally in isolation of the creative leaves you open to criticism. Seek points of view amongst the creatives and the wider agency, test different ‘ways in’ with your team and see where the energy is. Make the brief a summary of all of the rich and potential filled conversations you’ve had around the project vs. the start point for those. The more of a collaborative act it is, the more everyone believes in it as the ignition for creativity.

Q: Dear Sandie,

Sorry. It's an AI question. I’m a mid-level strategist. Should I use AI? And if so, how should I use it? (And will it take my job?) I’m whispering so it doesn't hear me.

A: I am a big believer of the now famous quote from economist Richard Baldwin that AI won’t take your job but that someone using AI might.

And this is not because AI will do a better job than you on competitive reviews or category convention definitions or any of the things that it is quite adept at doing and doing extremely quickly. It’s also not because it will make its users more productive than those that don’t. It’s not even because it will make its adopters more knowledgeable about a certain subject matter than those who reject it.  It’s because the efficiency that AI brings is going to allow us to do the things that we do best as strategists. It will give us more space, more time and more capacity to use our imagination and to make inspired leaps of thinking that lead to the unlocking of new, unexpected and effective solutions.

Cicero famously said ‘If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter’. Perhaps if he was alive today, he might have said ‘If I had all of the information in the world at my disposal, I would have found something new’.


Have a question for Sandie? Big issues or small friction points Sandie’s inbox and mind are open. She will be answering your questions in BITE. Email her your problems and challenges anonymously at: [email protected].


To read more of Sandie’s honest advice click here.

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