Experience vs Youth

I was recently reading an article which asked advertising people if they had to choose youth or experience what would they choose.

Ogilvy executive chairman Tom Moult sited the exemplar below.

There’s an old David Ogilvy story. He was looking at some creative work from a junior. He asked how the guy how he knew the ads would work, the junior explained that he was sure they would as his intuition told him so.

Ogilvy said, “Imagine your appendix ruptures right now, and I rush you to hospital. There are two surgeons available, one is an experienced surgeon, and the other one is new to the game but is offering to operate on you using his intuition. Which one would you choose?”

While David Ogilvy was a genius, and this is a compelling allegory he forgot one important thing. Advertising is not surgery. It’s not even a science for that matter, so we should never judge it as such.

What would I choose?

A youthful attitude.

Youth is a state of mind and our mind is as nimble or as old as we let it be.



  1. Dane · May 16, 2012

    How can David Ogilvy seriously compare Advertising to Surgery? I would choose the person who’s right for the job, regardless of age, gender or experience. I read an interesting article the other day about recruitment. Basically this manger hired a young self proclaimed “Westy” and senior advisers wanted him gone for poor judgment. Cut to the chase; The “Westy” and the manager are still with the same company 10 years on, the doubters are long gone.

    • Steve Sammartino · May 16, 2012

      Totally. I actually read an article on the subject talking about experience versus youth on advertising ideas…. which was superfluous and almost stupid…. It was where I first heard that quote. They forget to consider the things that actually matter – Hard work, intellect, effort….

      You know what is also interesting – when people believe that business success of a person (in this case Ogilvy) makes everything they say as being true or worth paying attention to.

  2. sufi · May 16, 2012

    I would choose experience. Feeling youth can happen to older person. It is attitude. But experience make you know about something and can use it for better life. Just my opinion.

  3. Jason Norris · May 16, 2012

    I get Ogilvy’s point. David’s secret weapon was a book he read that changed everything for him. David himself credit this book for transitioning him from a door-to-door salesman to an ad agency mogul. The book is called scientific advertising. I have read it and it does indeed break advertising down to a science.

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