Federal budget could redefine ageism in the ad industry

Allan Dib
By Allan Dib | 12 October 2020
Allan Dib

The federal budget includes a financial stimulus for employers to hire people under the age of 35.

The federal government will contribute an incentive to the employer of $10,400 per year for anyone employed under the age of 30 and $5,200 per year for someone aged between 30-35. While that is excellent news for those under 35 and employers bottom line; this could fuel further ageism in an industry that is already beset with ageism. 

I think the advertising industry is ripe for exploiting this incentive at a time when the industry expects a flurry of hiring or bring back employees that have been stood down.

The advertising industry already has an ageism problem; this is going to make it a more significant problem

  • The ageism problem in our industry is well documented and, while some agencies are trying to address this, many are not. Many believe ageism is already built into the hiring/firing process - either consciously or unconsciously.
  • I fundamentally believe our industry does not value the skills and experience a person over the age of 45 brings to the industry.
  • Agencies have become, and are becoming increasingly more, focused on the role data and technology has in the decision-making process; rather than thinking and experience. So their investment is generally directed towards technology, not people.

Agency leaders are optimistic about the future and expect a pick up in business and hiring

  • Agency leaders expect the worst of the impact of the pandemic on their business to be behind them.
  • They are excited about the impact the federal budget on increased consumer confidence and this increase in consumer confidence will translate into greater agency spend.
  • I believe the changes to tax write-offs will accelerate investment in technology and infrastructure.
  • All of this should result in more agency jobs.

Agencies have been feverishly cutting costs form their business

  • Agency leaders have had the difficult task of keeping the bottom line as healthy as possible at a time when clients have been cutting costs – and this has resulted in most agencies making staff redundant or standing down staff.
  • JobKeeper helped agencies keep staff on payroll, but as this begins to be phased out, agency leaders will have to review staffing levels once again.
  • Agency leaders will now have to decide which staff to keep and which to rehire – taking into account salaries and charge-out rates.

All this does not bode well for people in the industry aged between 36 and 45 years old. I suspect there will be an increased focus on an applicant's age when reviewing resumes and job posts will be more specific about the experience level required for roles (to narrow down eligibility for a position).

If this does happen –

  • we are going to see an exodus of talents and skills from the industry,
  • agencies will not have the right people to mentor juniors and;
  • an overall decrease in strategic thinking in the work.

The implications for those not working at the moment will be catastrophic; it will be harder to find a job and increased hardship for them and their families.

I hope I am an alarmist and that industry leaders do not make hiring decisions based on this incentive, but if they do when we as an industry need to expand our definition of ageism.

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