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‘Of course the industry is ageist’: Behind Thinkerbell’s over-55s internship

‘Of course the industry is ageist’: Behind Thinkerbell’s over-55s internship

Thinkerbell, the Australian independent that’s got a ‘friends with benefits’ agreement with PwC, has launched a paid internship for the over 55s in a bid to right the wrongs of an industry that skews young demographically.

The Drum spoke to Thinkerbell founder Adam Ferrier about a society that is youth-obsessed and why younger doesn’t mean more creative.

Ferrier is unwavering in his response to the question of whether the industry is ageist, “Of course the industry is ageist - it's blatantly clear it is. The statistics tell a damning story with over 50-year-olds making up just 5% of the industry. However, the ageism in advertising really just reflects a general level of ageism in our youth-obsessed larger society.”

He’s also very clear on why this is, stating what should be obvious in that the industry can get away with paying less to employ youngsters. “Younger people are cheaper to employ is probably the driving force for the industries fascination with youth.”

And cheaper doesn’t mean better, according to Ferrier.

“Creativity is wonderful but it needs to be married with other skills to be effective. Wisdom, judgement, strategy, experience are all wonderful bedpartners if you want to create creative solutions that work in a branded, commercial sense. All of these are skills, they are learned, and improve over time, and with experience,” he explains.

“They bring a different set of experiences, views and life skills from a professional and personal point of view. Change the order people comparison to life examples or experiences. Creativity is simply finding new connections to pre-existing concepts, and diversity of thinking helps everyone in this regard,” he adds.

Thrive@55 is the answer to this problem and will work by matching the experiences of the interns to particular parts of the business. Importantly, the internship is paid.

“The interns we choose will be introduced to the entire agency and inducted into all areas of the business. However, they will be picked for a certain reason and their internship will focus on them learning and contributing to, a particular area of work. The interns will have a designated mentor, as well as our Agency COP (head of Culture Operations and People) looking after them”, he said, “The intern will be learning new skills, but importantly we want them to be within an area of the agency where their experience can make a significant contribution.”

As to why the paid part is important, Ferrier is blunt, “All internships should be paid, we wouldn't consider not paying them. That's exploitation.”

While this particular program is just led by the agency, Ferrier hopes the wider industry takes note and develops more ideas to combat ageism.

“We hope to employ people from our internship program. Any programs or activities that move us towards being less ageist and more accepting of people of all ages would be excellent. The creative industry should develop some creative solutions to this very real issue,” he says.

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