Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Rebels, Misfits & Innovators: 50over50 – Tess Alps

We think it’s time to recognise and celebrate the true talent in our industry, the creatives, technologists, founders and leaders that are really driving our industry and shaping society, who just happen to be over 50. 50over50 is a series of interviews, shortly to become a podcast, with our most influential and inspiring industry leaders aged 50 and over.  

While the digital, marketing and advertising industry remains in thrall to the cult of youth, continually celebrating young talent, accelerating generational shifts over the last three decades mean this focus is becoming dangerously short sighted.

Never mind that this shuns the consumers who are the true influencers when it comes to household spending —  78% of over 50s command the purse-strings in their households, with the age group accounting for half of all consumer spending in the UK — in the digital economy it means the industry in danger of losing out on the knowledge and experience of those who have built the digital industry from the ground up.

Tess Alps is a force of nature. The recipient of the Advertising Association’s Mackintosh Medal in 2018, and chair of Thinkbox, Tess has been a constant force for good in the media sector and, previously president of WACL, a fierce supporter of inclusivity. She also loves scolding journalists who get their fact wrong about TV.

What one thing are you proudest of in your career? 

I guess still being in the industry — and caring about it – aged 65

What creative heights are you now capable of that you wouldn’t have been able to achieve at the early or mid-point of your career?

I have an even more strongly-held belief, supported by evidence, that creativity trumps everything.  We need to fight for it every day.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your role today?  

Mentoring younger people.  And seeing the industry start to tackle some of its demons such as the timeTo initiative to stamp out sexual harassment.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career? 

That you can spend a lifetime building your integrity, but you can lose it in an instant.

What advice would you give your 25-year old self? 

See above.  But also keep learning and keep moving because you’ve got 40 plus years to go.

What is the biggest mistake companies — brands or the industry – are making in their attitude to age today?   

People with nothing to prove and nothing to lose can be some of your most valuable employees and a vital component of a diverse workforce.  Mind you, be prepared to be challenged because we ‘Late Radicals’ can be a stroppy bunch.

What are you most excited about in your industry over the next 10 years?

Excited?  I’m probably a bit too anxious to be excited.  But I am very hopeful that we are at a point where we will make technology — wonderful though it is – our servant not our master.

What is your biggest regret about the industry today?  

We seem to have lost the ability to say ‘no’, whether that’s to taking on business on unprofitable terms, dodgy metrics, unreasonable behaviour or monopolistic markets.  We must loudly object to unacceptable things and then walk away.