The advertising industry has always coveted younger talent in order to stay relevant to the next wave of adult consumers. Changing technology and the way young adults interact socially and communicate is affecting the way agencies approach staffing against the needs of their clients and consumers.
From an agency perspective younger talent has always brought enthusiasm, passion and a willingness to try new things. Traditional agencies are fueled by younger talent and represent the majority of staff within the agency. They are a major contributor to the culture and creativity of their organizations.
But within all organizations there also needs to be a balance - passion with pragmatism, creativity with direction and inspiration with focus. Senior talent enables agencies to have discipline, direction, and balance. It is great to have an abundance of creativity, but without focus and direction, you have ideas that don't generate action or results.
Senior talent can also be more than a reservoir of great stories and anecdotes. Senior talent is often the driving force leading the agencies vision and direction. They bring leadership and discipline to the day-to-day operations of many agencies. They have the ability to easily exchange ideas and are extremely open to sharing insights and knowledge. This exchange is key to enabling junior talent to evolve and to elevate their skills and knowledge. Moreover, senior talent in agencies can establish identifiable role models, which can help inspire junior talent and help them define their future role within the agency. While technology will evolve, the ability to understand behavior and to share insights into the human condition has commonly been the preview of senior members of our society.
Senior talent often has a broader perspective of the industry as a whole. This helps them identify underlying objectives that may not be defined in a brief or client communications. Seniors are capable of big-picture thinking and the ability to understand the complexities of client relationships. These are a key benefit of senior agency members. So valued is the input of senior members, that the most common complaint of clients is their lack of access to them. The ability to share and mentor clients is an important role in allowing agencies to take a leadership role with their clients. While it is common practice to have clients serviced by members of their own peer group, the need to bring more experienced members into the working relationship can foster dialogue, communication, and education.
Admittedly, younger talent is cheaper and for over the last half-century, the industry has promoted a younger workforce. This has helped agencies reduced their operational overhead and to generate higher margins. This is what clients traditionally see as good value, enabling them to get more done for less. The industry demand for younger talent has resulted in an age drain. In an industry where it was common to seen agency staff in their late 50's and early 60's actively engaged in agency operations during the 80's and 90's, has seen the age threshold reduced to the mid to late 40's in 2017. So while younger talent can recognize social trends, impart knowledge and insights from their peers, there is still a relevant role for senior talent.
The need to rely on senior thinking has never been more self-evident then when it comes to pitches. This is when the full power of an agency's senior creative and strategic thinking comes into play. Senior talent often to drive the initial thinking and strategy work, before it is shared with the rest of the agency to flush out. It is also when most agencies reach out to senior freelancers to generate new concepts and insights.
Organizations such as The PitchMen are offering agencies access to senior freelance talent and services on an as-needed basis. Companies such as Old Ad Guys™ have created new agency models; giving clients direct access to only senior talent and strategic resources. The ability to mentor, educate and bring solutions based on personal experience is still relevant to today's marketers.
When evaluating whether to utilize more senior talent, consider their ability to problem-solve quickly, the category knowledge and insights they can provide, the lack of supervision and the ability to mentor and become positive role models to junior staff. Ultimately, senior talent is a proven commodity.
While the structure and models of agencies will evolve so will their need to maintain a balance of innovation and experience. The ability to integrate creative and strategic talent at all levels creates, diversity, stability, and strength.