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Anna Dalziel, Founder of 40 Over Forty and Director of Brand at Momentum Worldwide and Tag Warner, CEO of GAY TIMES, tackled the advertising industry’s ageism problem at BITE LIVE 2020.
It is no secret that the advertising industry has an ageism problem; even in some corners of the industry it remains a taboo subject.
It was a topic that topped the agenda at BITE LIVE 2020 with Anna Dalziel, Founder of 40 Over Forty and Director of Brand at Momentum Worldwide and Tag Warner, CEO of GAY TIMES delving into the challenge of creating an industry in which age is not automatically equated with a right to be heard or conversely, the assumption that your age makes you out of touch.
Warner joined GAY TIMES two years ago at the age of 24 and since he took the reins, the brand has flourished. Dalziel has been a leading voice in the industry when it comes to breaking the silence and stigma which still surrounds age through the launch of 40 Over Forty, a world-first platform celebrating the talent and experience of over 40s in the advertising, marketing and media industries. In an expansive debate hosted by Izzy Ashton, Deputy Editor of BITE, the duo tackled the challenge of ageism head on.
As an industry we need to wake up and realise that society is now moving quicker than us and we need to reflect that.Tag Warner
The two sides of the industry’s ageism problem were placed into sharp focus by Warner, who argued that the industry needs to, “not just respect but understand the sort of equity that people bring to their roles based on their own identities, characteristics and personalities.” Warner underlined the fact that ageism works both ways, from people saying, “I'm a young person and I'm the audience myself so I know better than you” to others declaring, “I've been in this business for 20, 30 years so, I know what I'm talking about”.
According to Dalziel, ageism is one of many inequalities that society is currently facing. She explained: “I do believe that [ageism] is done consciously and some of it subconsciously. I'm in no doubt that it's happening in other industries too.”
“I think for the majority of my career it's clear the focus has definitely been on the rising talent,” Dalziel explains, a focus she wanted to disrupt with 40 Over Forty to counter the narrative of the continual lists of rising talent, ones to watch and 30 under 30. It’s a narrative which automatically equates youth to progress and fresh thinking. She continued: “I think balance is the key word and it's long overdue. And I do think these preconceptions are stopping people from progressing and making them leave the industry.”
Even a cursory glance at beauty brands suggesting that women should ‘fight the signs of ageing’ underline how ageism is the death-knell of creativity. Likewise, the mainstream media narrative that young people would be able to climb the property ladder if only they would forgo that avocado on toast underlines the lack of empathy, understanding or basic economics that all too often come into play when it comes to the next generation of talent.
When it comes to where the industry places its value, Dalziel explains: “People over 40 are not considered to be valuable, experienced and smart which you know quite frankly is ridiculous because they are. Numbers are not celebrated, they're hidden and they're not discussed.”
[The industry needs to] not just respect but understand the sort of equity that people bring to their roles based on their own identities, characteristics and personalities.Tag Warner
The assumption that age is the defining factor of any consumer group was eloquently smashed by Warner who took aim at the stereotypes that still abound in advertising. He pointed out that there's an age to meet your significant other, to get married, to have a house, explaining, “what marketers do really well is then say, we're going to attach those sorts of life moments to products or services that we think are going to be important to you.”
However, this negates the fragmentation and cultural shifts afoot in society today and what he believes is a drastic shift in these life stages such as getting married, choosing to have children or not, buying a home with a significant other, or someone else entirely.
He explains: “As an industry we need to wake up and realise that society is now moving quicker than us and we need to reflect that. I've been in a lot of rooms with some albeit great creative directors telling me how our industry leads and how we're disruptive and we're challenging, and we're so not.”
Just as the singular life stage narrative is under siege so too is the singular media narrative, a diffusion of influence which has huge implications for marketing. As Warner explains: “Society now happens on people's phones via their own media. They're not being led by this wider media-mixed machine anymore quite as much as they were perhaps being done 20, 30 years ago where the whole narrative was a lot cleaner and more constructed and therefore the societal values that we pushed onto people were much more cleaner.” He believes this enables people to live a more authentic life and to have an identity which doesn’t automatically fit certain boxes.
According to Warner, this means that the industry needs to stop looking at age as something that can automatically be used as the defining factor of any consumer’s outlook or approach and instead understand that there's myriad things that define individual moments in people’s lives. It’s a shift Warner believes is already happening, but is not being represented in advertising.
He explains: “We're not quite as diverse as we think we are. We're not being as representative as we think we are. What's happened in the last 12 months is that a lot of us are starting to realize that and take note and realise we aren't quite as trailblazing as we maybe think we are and have been.” It is a realisation that he believes means the industry needs to dismantle the whole idea of what society really looks like, encompassing everything from how age is approached to gender, orientation, identity and religion.
Tag Warner and Anna Dalziel were speaking at BITE LIVE 2020. To watch the full conversation, visit the dedicated event page, Too old, too young, just right
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