Do Older Workers Still Fit in at Ad Agencies? Here’s a Thought

Imaginuity Chief Delivery Officer Tony Osterhaus gives his take on the benefits older workers can bring to advertising agencies.


In today’s digital world, many agencies have a two-fold recruiting strategy: 1) A focus on attracting the brightest, most tech savvy-talent on the market; Digital Native types who are tailor made for agency life. 2) When hiring for management and senior level positions, recruiting efforts tend to focus on candidates primarily under the age of 45.

The advertising industry is definitely getting younger. As a matter of fact, over the past 13 years the median age of an advertising industry employee has fallen by three years. According to 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of an advertising industry employee is 39. To further illustrate the point:

  • 52 percent of advertising Industry employees are between ages 25 – 44
  • 20 percent of advertising Industry employees are between ages 45- 54
  • 12 percent of advertising Industry employees are between ages 55 – 64
  • 4 percent of advertising Industry employees are over the age of 65

These stats beg the question: Should you be actively recruiting candidates ages 55 and older?


Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your recruiting model. In today’s highly competitive job climate, chock-full of talented young go-getters and highly accomplished executives, an opportunity exists to adjust your recruiting approach.

For example, many agency veterans who are currently being passed over still have plenty of high-performance fuel left in their tanks.  At the age when most people are traveling, playing golf, and checking off items on their bucket lists, these folks still have a passion for agency life.

Is it a gamble to hire this type of candidate? That all depends. Many variables go into a search. Experience is a big one. Beyond that? It really boils down to fit — for the position, for the culture, for the business — regardless of age.


Let’s examine the experience factor. Can it be overlooked? Ignored? Possibly. Especially with candidates from, shall we say, a higher age demographic. Perhaps it’s not politically — or HR — correct to say, but the reality is that agency veterans’ resumes don’t always get due consideration — no matter how many skins they have on the wall.

Pay heed, though. These candidates bring with them boxcars full of relevant, transferable experience. Their well-established practical, working agency knowledge includes:

  • Managing agency organizations of all sizes
  • Developing, managing, and leading major accounts and client relationships
  • An understanding of agency dynamics and how they affect the business and clients
  • Ability to anticipate client needs — even when the client may not — and offer actionable solutions
  • Leveraging long-standing relationship for business development

Also, these folks cut their teeth on legendary brands that remain relevant today. They bring with them an understanding of brand development, the inherent value of a brand, and its connection to consumers.


Another important reason to consider this class of candidates is their ability to mentor and nurture employees from junior staff all the way up to executives.

Having come from traditional advertising backgrounds, they can take a more strategic view without getting buried in the day-to-day tactical trenches. They can diagnose situations that younger staff consider dire such as looming deadlines, an unexpected client ask, or internal resources issues. Because they have been there, done that so many times in their careers, they are better equipped to help the staff step back, dissect the issue with a level head, and proceed in a manner that benefits the client, the agency, and themselves.

At the management level, executives get mired in managerial muck. As mentoring relates to them, it’s like having an in-house management coach. One who can help the leadership team get a better grasp on how to structure the agency and develop realistic plans for a more productive and efficient organization.


These candidates are poised to be immediate key contributors to your organization for many reasons. Here are just a few.

  • Assist management in gaining a fresh perspective on the business and how to functionally improve it
  • Ability to bring multiple resources together as a cohesive and synergistic unit
  • Assemble and lead integrated new business pursuit teams and shape a compelling pitch

And it’s worth adding this. The gratitude they exude is infectious. Whether advising on organizational or process changes, mentoring staff and watching them grow, or having an impact on the bottom line, they deliver tangible benefits. They are paying it forward in meaningful ways. The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment derived from their ongoing contributions is not limited to them. Everyone shares the fruit. It’s a real win-win.

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R E A D   N E X T

Tony Osterhaus is chief delivery officer for Imaginuity, a full-service digital marketing agency in Dallas.