The Emeritus Protocol

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In his answer to Campaign's Cannes Contest question, School's co-founder exorcises the specter of ageism in the industry

"If you had the floor at Cannes, what industry-changing idea would you share?"

Campaign US posed that question as the centerpiece of a contest that will send one respondent to June's Cannes Lions 2015. In addition to its public call for multimedia entries, Campaign asked industry leaders for their own perspectives.

Our industry worships youth. We are constantly looking for "new blood" to relate to an ever-fickle and increasingly resistant Millennial class. We have Young Guns. We have student Pencils. We have 30 under 30. We have ad schools that mold callow artists and writers into agency fodder. The ad agency culture is obsessed with harnessing the energy, ethos and zeitgeist of young people.

And yet, almost simultaneously and with equal vigor, the prevalent culture of our industry rejects seniority — or rather, it rejects old people. This is both foolish and perilous.

If one were to ask any senior creative director to name their biggest fear, many will identify the inability to find employment at 50 and older. At an age when most people would be entering the height of their profession, older ad agency execs — outside the financial and managerial spheres — are seen as practically extinct and wholly ineffectual.

Creatives, strategists, producers and even account leaders who are seen as too old are rather unceremoniously dumped into the ever-increasing pool of freelancers and the unemployable. Unless we do something about it.

We must see that experience has similar value to youth. That’s why we should create an industry-wide movement to create mentorship and emeritus roles for older folks who work with us. We have movements for greater racial representation in advertising. We are great proponents of gender equality in our industry as well. It’s time we ad age — and ageism — to this list.

I propose the Emeritus Protocol – a deliberate and well-funded alliance to create teaching and mentoring opportunities for older ad execs. Partnering with agencies, universities, public and private organizations, and perhaps international awards committees and award shows, we can create opportunities and employment longevity for some of the best minds in the business.

This will ensure that vital knowledge is passed down to successive generations of creative, strategic and account leaders. It will also create a bigger pipeline for great work on behalf of clients. It can lead to more publishing and content generation, as well as new forms of knowledge transfer and archiving for the work that we do.

There are many at Cannes who are already to begin wondering if "this is all there is." With the Emeritus Protocol, we can help convince them that the last decade of their careers can be more lucrative, meaningful and exciting than their first.

Max Lenderman is co­-founder of School, a purposeful creative shop based in Boulder, SF and NY and part of the Project:WorldWide family of agencies.


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