Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why it’s time to celebrate digital’s mature talent

By Justin Pearse, Editor, New Digital Age

So why did we launch 50over50?

A few years ago, I came to a realisation that, for all its science, research and obsession with ‘insight’, when it came to age, the marketing industry had no real understanding of who its real customers actually were.

As I entered my forties, almost all my friends, acquaintances and work colleagues in many ways acted largely the same as they had in their twenties and thirties, spending a huge amount of time, and money, on the things they loved — music, food, restaurants, clothes, travel.

The only significant difference really was the pure spending power we now had. Suddenly, we were most brands’ perfect customer. Odd then, that marketers seemed to be uninterested. As a great Campaign article pointed out, in a recent survey, 89% of over-50s said they believed brands weren’t interested in them.

It was only as I grew older that I noticed the desperate cult of youth the industry I have been part of for over 20 years laboured under, a desire to court the millennial generation or younger at all costs.

Of course, brands need to try and win the lifetime loyalty of their future customers but the incredible behavioural shifts we’ve witnessed over the past decades seem to be ignored by a marketing industry that prides itself on a forensic understanding of human behaviour.

While 78% of over 50s are in charge of their household spending, with the age group accounting for half of all consumer spending in the UK, brands continue to ignore them or peddle a desperately out of date, cliched view of the generation.

But it’s not just the output of the industry where things are out of joint. The obsession with youth means we are fixated on new, young talent, with endless awards and rankings celebrating the achievements of our youngest members.

Again, clearly, it’s obvious that we need to reward and nurture young talent. But surely, we should also be celebrating the incredible, career-long achievements of the talent that has delivered and continues to deliver the creative work that drives this industry.

When it comes to the digital economy, especially, the hard-won experience of those that actually built this industry, is even more vital. It’s one of the reasons why we continue to see research pouring out proving that the most successful tech founders aren’t actually the startup kids of popular myth but those in their forties and fifties.

So, we thought it was time to turn the spotlight on those in our industry at the very height of their creative, technological and strategic super powers.

Talking to those in our 50over50 series, it’s clear any company would be lucky to have their talent onboard. So, even as the industry struggles to address its diversity problem, perhaps it’s finally time to take a good hard look at how it manages, curates and nurtures its mature talent.

These are the people that make the digital economy such an incredible industry to be part of. They’ve achieved more in their career than most of the hottest of hot young talent could ever dream of and they continue to innovate, rebel and create.

NDA’s 50over50 series will continue to celebrate this awesome source of pure creative talent and we hope they will prove as much of an inspiration to the generation of new talent rising in their wake.