In praise of older workers

Recently, in an off-guard moment, Mark Read, CEO of WPP, mentioned that those working in WPP owned agencies had an average age of less than 30. This off the cuff remark in answer to a question from a financial analyst stirred up a storm of controversy – not least amongst friends and colleagues of us at Anatomised, none of whom can be described as being in the first bloom of youth. One of our friends, Paul Smith, a former creative chief at Ogilvy, now retired, had this to say.

“That might explain why the standard of work coming out of agencies is so palpably poor.

I cannot tell you how often in the latter part of my career I was called upon to attend meetings with clients who said, ‘Please don’t send one of the children… send someone who knows what they’re doing’.

CDP’s (creative) department was a mix of ages but steered by the likes of John Salmon, Richie, Nigel Clark and so many other wise old heads.

I would also suggest Mark looks at the management of WPP as he weighs in at a hefty 53 and is the youngest member of that board. Perhaps he would have been better off saying we value our people on the value they bring, no matter what age they are.”

The CDP that Paul refers to is Collett, Dickenson and Pearce, which retains the title of Britain’s most awarded agency, despite having not existed for the past 20 years. It is the Alma Mater of David Hughes, Mark Andrews, Mike Everett and, of course, Paul.

Despite getting on a bit, at Anatomised we all cling tenaciously to the standards set by that agency and do not in any way consider ourselves to be ‘past it’. In fact, we approach every job we do with the spring of youth in our step, albeit with a few creaking joints…

WPP prides itself on ‘inclusivity’. Surely that should include older workers. The experience that old, wise heads, as Paul calls them, bring to bear not only benefits clients, it can also provide invaluable training by example, mentoring and teaching for younger generations.