Making sense of ‘ambiguous ageism’: a multi-level perspective on age inequality in the advertising industry

Sven Brodmerkel*, Richie Barker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
115 Downloads (Pure)


As recent statistics confirm, the advertising industry lives up to its image of being a preserve of the young: Less than 10% of all advertising practitioners in the US, UK and Australia are over the age of 45. But what are the social processes and discursive formations that create and sustain this skewed age profile? Based on 26 in-depth interviews with older advertising professionals and the thematic analysis of recent ageism-related coverage in advertising industry news media publications, we illustrate (1) how this age inequality is understood, represented and negotiated by practitioners and industry observers, and (2) how the dynamic interplay between individual identifications, organisational practices, and social structures (re)produces what we refer to as ‘ambiguous ageism’–an entrenched and opaque marginalisation process which disadvantages older advertising practitioners, but in which they are also at the same time often complicit in. By conceptualising and applying a relational, multi-level perspective for investigating age inequality in the creative industries, we offer new insights into the empirical realities of creative work and provide a framework that can guide further research into the dialectics between ageing and organisational life in the creative industries and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-145
Number of pages25
JournalCreative Industries Journal
Issue number2
Early online date22 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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