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Elderly in ads

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Elderly in ads

  1. 1. The oldest man in Adland83-year-old Tony Dell has created eye-catching campaignssince the days of rationing. Alex Benady hears why herefuses to retireAt 8.15am each day, Tony Dell leaves his large, spartan flat onthe outskirts of Croydon and catches the X68 bus for the 40-minute commute to Waterloo Bridge. From there he strolls intothe Covent Garden offices of Delaney Lund Knox Warren, theadvertising agency where he is a senior art buyer.At 8.15am each day, Tony Dell leaves his large, spartan flat onthe outskirts of Croydon and catches the X68 bus for the 40-minute commute to Waterloo Bridge. From there he strolls intothe Covent Garden offices of Delaney Lund Knox Warren, theadvertising agency where he is a senior art buyer.Its not the journey itself that is remarkable, but the fact thatDell has being doing it - the odd illness and very occasionalholiday excepted - every weekday for the 55 years since hisworking life began.Dell was 84 in September. That he is still employed full-time isimpressive or depressing enough, depending on your outlook.That he is still working in advertising, an industry longregarded as almost the exclusive preserve of the young, wheremany are burnt out by their mid-thirties and fewer than one infive are in their forties, makes Dells career longevity seemlittle short of miraculous.Slim and upright, dressed in a casual turquoise shirt andbaggy grey corduroys, it is only a slight paunch that givesaway the truth that he is in his ninth decade. In fact, its nothis age that first strikes you on meeting him, so much as ayouthful, playful, and slightly camp vitality.Dell comes from an era when advertising was known as"edvertising" and he sounds like David Niven with a touch ofNoel Coward. "It may seem some sort of miracle to you. But tome its just normal," he retorts. "The fact is that I workbecause I need to work, for health, money and love. I meanwhat else would I do?"As the oldest man in British (if not world) advertising, his workrecord reads more like a seminar in modern history than a CV.His career has spanned the years of post-war rationing, theintroduction of television advertising, the consumer boom of
  2. 2. the Sixties, the recession of the Seventies, the yuppieexplosion of the Eighties, and the dotcom bubble of the lateNineties. During this time he has worked closely with many ofthe most famous names in art, photography and design of thepast 50 years. They include Lichfield, Donovan, Bailey andSnowdon, to name just a few.And when he says work, he means proper work, not potteringaround for a couple hours a day generally getting in the way,as is often the case with older people who cant bringthemselves to retire. He puts in a full nine-hour day and isresponsible for one of the biggest, busiest accounts in theindustry; that of the countrys largest bank, the Halifax. "As anart buyer I have a threefold role. I have to buy photographyand illustrations and whatever else, at the standard requiredby an art director, at the budget available from a client, in thetime for its best reproduction," he explains.Despite spending his entire career in advertising, Dell driftedinto it more by chance than ambition. He served in the RoyalLancers during the Second World War but then spent threeyears in hospital with TB and another two years recuperating."Eventually a friends father who was ad manager for VanHeusen [the shirt manufacturer] suggested I try his agency,Willings Press Service, where for reasons best known tothemselves, the entire creative department had walked out."Naturally I was invited in. What else could they say? Butwithin a month the studio manager had lost his job and I wasin charge. It was terrible, terrible. But it wasnt my fault.Nothing ever is."Its a role he has carried out in a variety of agencies prettymuch ever since. Does it bother him that he has never made itto the top or that he is now taking orders from people youngenough to be his great-grandchildren?"Oh my God, no. Im not interested in money. I dont need toown anything. Im not acquisitive in the least. And at my ageyou realise status is nothing, nothing at all. Ive never soughtto be anything or anywhere other than what I am. Its just notmy way."Of course young people are ignorant. But its not their fault.They are not taught. So the only judgment I make aboutyounger people is to think what gorgeous figures they have."However this hasnt stopped him from keeping a sharp, if non-judgmental eye on how his industry has changed. "The biggestthing has been increasing sophistication and pace in every
  3. 3. department. When I first joined, it was telephones andmessenger boys, now its computers and e-mail," he says."Theres also greater sophistication in terms of provision ofmaterials, and consumer insight. Advertising used to be almostexclusively aspirational. But now consumers are moresophisticated its much less unreachable and much more to dowith reality."Perhaps surprisingly Dell says his favourite ad of all time is notsome classic from the Sixties or Seventies, but the Guinness"surfer" commercial which he describes as "Unquestionablymagnificent and beautiful. If you see it, you remember it forever."Perhaps even more surprising is his claim not to be particularlyintrigued by advertising as a cultural form. "I dont care. Imjust not interested. Im interested in the procedure ofadvertising and the process of making money throughadvertising. Its advertising - not adverts - that I like."Ask him about retirement and he admits he did retire once, 20years ago, "for the party and present". But he was back towork the next Monday. Now he has every intention of "dying inharness". That may sound horrific to those who aim is toexpire wearing a beige nylon tracksuit on a Spanish golfcourse. But he dismisses the current debate over retirementage as "nonsense"."Everything is individual. But most jobs these days arentexhausting manual labour. People dont need to retire in thesame way they used to. Which would you rather have, a fewextra years of congenial work or spend the rest of your days inpoverty?"Dell claims repeatedly that he has never been ambitious in hiscareer. However he does still have one personal ambition left."The biggest of all is to see tomorrow," he says.The cult of youth in advertising is laughable in a societythats growing olderAn old lady is slowly traversing a zebra crossing on herZimmer. Another follows with a shopping trolley. But this isnot an advert for walking aids or baggage, and its certainlynot a road-safety message. "Lets Make Things MoreInteresting", is the slogan for the betting-shop ad, giving oddson the chances of the women eluding an approaching whitevan - "2:1 against leading lady, 4:1 against following lady".This poster for Paddy Power is among Reg Starkeys all-time
  4. 4. most ageist adverts. "Striking, but too cruel, too tasteless," ishow the adman describes it.Starkey has decided to fight back against what he sees asblatant discrimination in adland by heading a creative teamthat have volunteered their services for the latest campaignfor Age Concern. From today, in cities across Britain, billboardswill be unveiled featuring just the top of an older mans head."Ignore this poster, its got grey hair," will run the caption - areference to the medias usual portrayal of older people. AgeConcerns research shows that 59 per cent of the populationbelieve that media coverage of the elderly is negative.Starkey, 64, who has campaigns such as Dont Cheat on theCheese and Put Milk First in his portfolio, is the creativedirector of a team whose average age is 55. "If you wantevidence that ageism exists, look no further than the creativeindustries. Here, youll see age discrimination in its rawestform," Starkey says. "Ad agency professionals who are over50, including creatives and marketers, are first in line forredundancy and are treated as has-beens. In advertising,older people are under-represented or portrayed asstereotypes. The cult of youth in advertising is laughable in asociety that is growing older."Starkey has many examples of ad ageism. Talksport takes aswipe at Classic FM by using a hearse and graveyard and the"Attention All Undertakers" alert, making the point that 78 percent of the music stations listeners are over 55. Theres alsothe award-winning 118 118 campaigns old codger whoportrays the demise of the old directory enquiries. "Theimplication was that BT is dying, just like old people are dying.Arent we all, always, dying?"Hes philosophical about why such views exist. "I believe itmust be because, historically, we were a young country. If youlook at the post-war baby boom, youth was vitally important.That got into the DNA, and theres a feeling that youth is whatits all about."But marketers are making a big mistake, he argues. "I thinktheres a fault in the marketing industry in that the way it isconstructed does not in any way reflect the population profile,"he says. "The world ends at 45 as far as marketing isconcerned. But 45- to 69-year-olds have the highestdisposable incomes in the country; 16- to 24-year-olds havethe lowest, but they are the most represented group inadvertising."Ciar Byrne

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