5 reasons you’re wrong to write off older people in media

5 reasons you’re wrong to write off older people in media

Here’s why the younger generations coming through need support from ‘oldies’, from dealing with clients to understanding context.

I’m 52 and, for many young team members, that often translates to “soooo old”, “you won’t get it” or “you’re just waiting out retirement” — you get the idea.

The worst insinuation for me was that I didn’t care. I’m certain I’m not alone.

This article is not about berating the young, but about highlighting what experienced talent does best. It’s about giving advice to the new, up-and-coming talent, especially now that they are more remote than ever.

Now, in my new role as co-founder of TheZoo.London, I’m observing two things. First, I see how many businesses lack senior talent in their ranks, with the gap widening between management and the layers below. Second, I witness the amazing work our consultants are doing — each one of them senior and experienced — inside our client businesses.

The impact that one person can have on a team, on the direction of strategy, is immense. It got me thinking about how sometimes the older generations at work are dismissed when, in reality, they are more needed than ever.

A small example: the younger advertising recruits are excited about TikTok. It’s the centre of their lives but, slowly, they will see TikTok become more assertive and, at some point, more aggressively target clients. They will start to negotiate hard and cut back on benefits.

To the new recruits, they won’t know what’s happening. To someone with experience who has seen Yahoo, Google, Facebook etc do it, this is just history repeating itself. They will know how to react, which battles to fight and which to let go.

Experienced operators have seen a lot. So here are five reasons, if I were starting out now, I would seek support and mentorship from one of the “oldies”.

1. They’ve been there, done that

There is very little you will face as a new starter that someone who has been in the industry for 20-plus years hasn’t already dealt with at some point.

Having a go-to person in your business to discuss a particular situation could lift a huge weight off your shoulders, give you some context and, as happened to me early in my career, remind me that eventually everything gets sorted — and 99% of situations you won’t ever think about again.

2. Dealing with client conflict

Sometimes you are faced with clients that are bullies. But, in most cases, they are just being difficult and perhaps taking advantage (there are lots of lovely ones too).

There is nothing more powerful than having someone experienced get involved in the situation. At the very least, they can advise on how to handle it. If I believe one of my teams is being treated badly, I will step in, even at the cost of losing clients and/or budgets.

3. Understanding context

Media has a habit of repeating itself. No-one believes you but, in truth, there are so many trends that repeat themselves. Having the experience to be able to put things into context and draw comparisons is key.

Too often, the new shiny thing is presented as the most important thing a client should be focused on, instead of explaining how it could contribute to a wider plan.

An example is influencer marketing: it is very powerful, but it is not the only thing in the world a client should do. Explaining how it complements other channels is crucial and gains you credibility when discussing with clients, especially senior ones.

4. It’s a long road ahead

Careers are very long nowadays. I am probably on chapter 11 or 12. If you are on chapter 1, then first it is important not to pile on pressure as to how successful you should be.

Secondly, it is very reassuring to have some advice about how to navigate such a long career. It is not straightforward and getting harder. There is so much content about “demanding what you want”, but there should be an equal amount about timing. Timing your pay rise requests, timing your promotion plans and how to ask for both.

5. Listen to experience

Speak to people with experience and listen. The energy and enthusiasm of youth are amazing, and innovation is fantastic, but don’t assume that the older team members have not done that.

I innovated and made brave decisions my whole life and continue to do so. You don’t lose that as you age; if anything, you get braver.

Also, the shiny thing is not the only thing to focus on. It is the knowledge of all and how things work together that is most powerful. Learn something new.

So that is my ode to the younger generations in our industry. We need a balance of experience and youth to create a brilliant future together.

Marco Bertozzi is the co-founder of TheZoo.London. He spent a number of years at Publicis Groupe, including at ZenithOptimedia, and was mostly recently global chief revenue officer at its performance marketing arm, Performics. He left Publicis to join Spotify as vice-president, EMEA and multi-market global sales, in 2017. Before the launch of TheZoo.London in 2023, Bertozzi was EMEA president at Whalar. 

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