Creative advertising agency Thinkerbell has launched a new internship program for people over 55. Thrive@55 is an eight-week, fully paid program, offering older people in Melbourne and Sydney the opportunity to work across all areas of the agency. In an industry dominated by young people, the internship presents a fantastic opportunity for older people to have their voices heard, and for the company to tap into a wealth of experience and expertise. 

A new type of internship

Thinkerbell is an Australian advertising agency known for their innovative thinking. They have developed Thrive@55 to address the lack of representation of older people in the industry. ‘Our older generation have a lifetime of experience to bring to our agency, and our industry,’ Emma O’Leary, Manager of Culture, Operations and People, says. ‘We want our staff and clients to benefit from people with years of life experience, and vice versa.’

Applicants are not required to have any previous experience in advertising or communications. They will have the opportunity to work in varied parts of the business, including creative, account management, office management, strategy, finance, design, media, photography, and illustration. ‘If you’re excited, and a little scared, then apply,’ Thinkerbell says.

The benefits of older people in the workforce

Although Thinkerbell’s internship program is unusual in the Australian context, it shouldn’t be. The benefits of hiring older employees are well documented, and many companies would be smart to offer incentives, such as internships, to older people. Mature-aged employees are generous with their time, offering to mentor young colleagues and share their wealth of knowledge with others. They are generally considered to be more reliable, skilled, and experienced than their younger counterparts. Contrary to popular belief, older employees take less sick days.  

And while there is a perception that many older people can’t keep up with new technology, this is largely untrue. A study by WPP AUNZ’s research agency Lightspeed found that over 50s spend an average of 27 hours per week online – that’s two hours longer than Millennials or Generation X. Many older Australians are embracing the possibilities of technology, from smart phones to internet shopping to online gaming. They may not be ‘digital natives’ like their grandchildren, but they’re as capable of learning new things as anyone else.

Why it’s important for older people to have their voices heard in advertising

When you see older people on television ads, they’re most likely spruiking funeral insurance policies. It’s a reflection of the lack of imagination of the current advertising culture: older Australians are often pigeon-holed into a tired stereotype, and not shown in any diverse or interesting ways.

This type of representation isn’t appreciated by the older generation. The Lightspeed study found that 94% of older Australians dislike the way brands, organisations and marketers communicate with them. 73% say they don’t dress or look like stereotypical age representations. 

It’s a costly mistake for brands to make, because over 50s have greater purchasing power than any other demographic in the country. According to the same study, people over 50 account for 50% of private wealth in Australia, and 46% of disposable income. Over 50s are better off than the rest of the Australian population, and more willing to spend on luxury items and experiences.

This is why it’s vital that the voices of older Australians are heard before advertisements go to air. Their knowledge and insights will be invaluable to any brand willing to tap into this lucrative part of the market. Advertising is an industry dominated by young voices – a recent Forbes article states that only 5% of ad agency employees are over 50, and most are not in the creative department where the concepts behind advertisements are developed. And when the people creating our media are not people who reflect our real world, that becomes a problem. 

Hopefully many other companies, in advertising and elsewhere, follow Thinkerbell’s lead and begin to appreciate and utilise the skills and knowledge of an older workforce. We look forward to seeing the outcome of Thrive@55, and other programs in the future.

 

Image Fizkes via iStock

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