Thursday, October 31, 2019

Los Viejos.

There was an article in last Friday's "New York Times" about the two major league baseball teams, the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros, who are facing each other in the World Series. 

What makes the article remotely interesting to me who has all but given up on sports, baseball included, is the nickname the more experienced of the Washington Nationals use to describe themselves. 

They are "Los Viejos." The Old Ones.

The Nationals' 40-man roster had an average age of 30.9--the oldest in the majors. Their opponents, the Astros, clocked in at 29.7, the third oldest team in the league. (Last evening, the Series ended. The Nats, the oldest team in the league defeated the Astros, the third oldest team.)

As the Times reports on this phenomenon, "
Major league clubs are increasingly relying on younger, cheaper players to fill their rosters ... But this World Series between the Houston Astros and Nationals has served as a reminder of the power of experience."

For a league that often uses "Let the kids play" as a slogan, 
the Nationals have altered that. In their clubhouse they yell to one another, "Let the viejos play."

A similar age-o-graphic shift is taking place right before our eyes in the ad business. Holding company chieftains looking to lower costs by axing older people (they usually claim they're not in touch with 'the culture'). In fact, at one of the world's largest holding company as of 2017, the last year I could find data for, only 9% of employees were older than 50. Only 2% were older than 60.

As Bob Hoffman, the Ad Contrarian said on his blog earlier this month, "advertising is not like science and math where the brightest tend to excel while young. Advertising has more in common with literature and art. Artists and writers tend to do their best work in their 40's, 50's and 60's.

"Nonetheless, the agency business has demographically cleansed itself of mature people. Today, while 42% of the adult population of America is over 50, 6% of the population of advertising agencies is over 50. This is not an accident."

What's more, the over 60 age-o-graphic is growing faster than any other age group in the US. And 30% of men and 22% of women ages 65 to 74 are still working.

But as usual, the 'we-want-to-be-a-part-of-culture' culture of advertising is missing the boat. Or maybe they're missing the motorized wheelchair.

In fact, I've heard clients and CCOs each say, "I want younger people on my business." Yes. I've heard that. 

A counterpoint to that ageist notion comes from eight-time All-Star and 21-game-winner Astros' pitcher Justin Verlander, 36. 

Verlander's talking about baseball's myopia, but he could be talking about your agency's myopia or mine: “Veteran leadership and experience on the baseball field is something that you can’t quantify and can’t put a number to it....In the current state of baseball, if you can’t put a number on it, they don’t want to value it and they don’t want to pay you for it."

Let's rewrite that sentence for our benighted industry and look at it again, “Veteran leadership and experience in an agency is something that you can’t quantify and can’t put a number to it.... In the current state of advertising, if you can’t put a number on it, they don’t want to value it and they don’t want to pay you for it."

Consensus is, in agencies and ballfields, "younger players are generally more athletic, [but] they can lack experience on how best to apply it." In advertising, the younger people know newer media and culture better and they certainly lack the adipose and salary requirements of oldsters. But often, they can lack experience on how best to apply their skills. 

As  Tony Clark, the executive director of the players’ union puts it (again, there might be an agency parallel), "Veteran players can help shorten learning curves....The effect we’re seeing now by more and more of the veteran guys being moved out is a young group of players that are learning on the fly. That’s challenging.”

Yeah. Young people learning on the fly. Being given a big assignment, no time and no experience. I can't imagine that happening in an agency.

As  Astro reliever, Joe Smith, 35, says about the need to keep learning as you age in baseball (or advertising) “It’s easy to get here, it’s hard to stay.”

Strike three!

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