Changing Perspectives - Age was never something I looked at or cared about

4 July 2023
Dick Laurie.

The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiencesto inspire us all to change for the better.

G’Day, my name’s Dick Laurie. I’m a husband, father of three ‘boys’, surfer, part-time farmer, country tennis player and Senior Strategic Director with UM ANZ. With over 30 years’ work experience throughout Australia and internationally, I’m still going strong and loving what I do and the people I get to work with.

Precious little in formal industry development back then
Ageism is not a new industry dynamic, we’re just more willing to talk about it now. In my career, I have certainly witnessed both sides of ageism – towards younger and older professionals.

When I started my career as a junior planner buyer, this industry was flying, the budgets were significant, the channels limited (www was in discussion) and the big names of international advertising were (mostly) still alive. As a newbie, you started at the bottom, largely kept your head down and worked your way up through agency expansion or people leaving, gaining learning by doing and through mentors along the way – there was precious little in formal industry development and training programs back then.

Can you describe any challenges you encountered in the industry and how you were able to overcome them? 

In recent times, I’ve been told that I’m over-qualified/too costly/too experienced/you’d get bored quickly, and the like, when talking to prospective employers about potential roles. 

In isolation, these seemingly innocuous statements had little impact on me until I began to tally them up and saw a trend developing – organisations didn’t want to hire me, not because I didn’t have the craft skills or experience, but perhaps because they thought I would go after their job, show them up or some similar nonsense.

In several roles over time, I’ve been in the position to hire people. When I reviewed resumes to develop a shortlist, I looked at identifying candidates with the ‘right experience’ and those who were interesting, a bit different and whose values stood out. Age was never something I looked at or cared about – it’s just a number.

What advice/tips can you give people working in the industry, who may not understand but want to?

My biggest tip is don’t be afraid that people might take your job, wether they’re younger or older.

I’ve had the good fortune to be an active participant in mentor programs globally and regionally. Through this experience I discovered so many uniquely talented individuals who, whether they knew it or not, made me feel like the mentoring ran both ways.

Many of these mentees have stayed within the industry and are doing extraordinary things across the planet. They were all younger than me and they could have easily taken my job at some point, had they wanted to. I’ve always welcomed that possibility, as I believe everyone should have a succession plan – if not of their own making, then at least an active involvement.

I genuinely don’t understand ageism and don’t get why it exists in our industry, or any industry for that matter. I don’t believe age is a qualifier of capability, of expertise, of thinking and developing ideas.

Yes, experience comes with age, but what of personality, of values, of curiosity? These are not determined by years of experience, they are inherent in all of us – sometimes adjusting with time.

Let’s be ageless advertising. Ageism just doesn’t make sense!

Dick Laurie is Senior Strategic Director at UM Australia

To broaden your understanding of DE&I, complete the SBS Core Inclusion courseAustralia’s leading online DE&I training course – available for free to MFA member employees. Access ends December 2023.

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