There’s an odor to ageism. Limburger smells better.
According to Lindsay Rittenhouse at Adweek, the stench of age-based discrimination led copywriter and creative director Susan Walsh, who worked for Doner for 10 years, to file a lawsuit against the agency for age discrimination.
Walsh says the only explanation she received for her termination was that she had been identified “for a reduction in force” as one of a group of employees, including two of the three oldest employees in the creative department, who did not have the “anticipated skills, knowledge and abilities needed by employees in the future,” per the suit.
Personnel matters are by definition personal, which makes them hard to relay or digest in a news format. Yet, we persist. The suit alleges, that global chief creative officer Eric Weisberg showed preferential treatment to younger employees—including reassigning work from older employees to younger ones. The filing also states that Weisberg openly expressed a fondness for “digital natives.”
Skills & Drills
I wonder, what are the “anticipated skills, knowledge and abilities needed by employees in the future” that Doner requires of its creative team members?
Number one, you need to be a maker. I am not certain what that means to Doner, but it sounds like you need to be a person with a can-do attitude. This is what it says on the agency’s website:
We can make anything happen
It happens right after someone comes up with an idea. Usually an ambitious idea. They ask, ‘Can we do that?’ Well, at Doner, we always say, ‘Sure, we can do that.’ Our Maker Culture is what drives that belief. And what delivers on it is a powerful team of skilled producers, shooters, editors, audio engineers, retouchers, developers and imaginative people who always finds a way to make it happen.
Is there a difference between a maker and a craftsperson? I believe there is. Doner wants to make it and get it done, whatever it is. They’re makers. A craftsperson is dedicated to making beautiful things that work in a commercial environment. Both work on deadline and under pressure.
The problem is that the maker model lacks focus and sometimes humility. People dedicated to craft don’t chase digital debris down cold corridors. They’re totally focused on the work at hand. They make room for the customer in the equation and deliver insight-based advertising that moves people to think and to act.
Ideas About Work Have Changed, Not Always for the Better
Do you need to be a gung-ho multitasker to work in advertising today? Or do you need a finely honed skill set that creates fame and wealth for clients?
Anne Helen Petersen, Senior Culture Writer for @BuzzFeedNews explains what work looks like to people in her age group:
As American business became more efficient, better at turning a profit, the next generation needed to be positioned to compete. We couldn’t just show up with a diploma and expect to get and keep a job that would allow us to retire at 55. In a marked shift from the generations before, millennials needed to optimize ourselves to be the very best workers possible.
If I understand the modern workplace dynamic correctly, Gen Xers like me and any Baby Boomers left standing in the agency business must accommodate ourselves to optimized millennials or pay the price.
Last time I was in a meeting with an optimized millennial, he could not look me in the eye nor would he stop his notifications from beep beep beeping. Which leads me to ask, when will the bad habits that digital culture promulgates begin to crack and crumble? Perhaps, they already have.