Sandy is one half of the founding partners behind TERRI & SANDY, the advertising agency she began with her long-term creative partner Terri Meyer.  Together longer than most marriages, this dynamic duo rose through the ranks at several of the largest agencies in the world, including J. Walter Thompson, DMB&B and Foote Cone and Belding. After their promotion to EVPs, Executive Creative Directors at FCB, Sandy and Terri decided to strike out on their own and start one of the few female-owned, creatively-run agencies in America.

They started TERRI & SANDY on Terri’s dining room table and won Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year Award and were named the 3rd most effective independent agency in North America by the prestigious Effie Awards. And they’ve garnered virtually every industry award with campaigns that have permeated pop culture...if you're into that sort of thing.

See also:  Terri Meyer
Is ageism in the industry something you thought about in your 30s?  Your 40s?
I certainly realized ageism existed in my 30’s, but it was somewhat irrelevant to me. In my 40’s,  the topic came into focus a bit more as I got closer to personally being affected by it.

Is ageism something that’s affected you?  What are some of the challenges you faced as a person who was getting older in the business?  Do tell.
In the big agency world, I faced ageism, especially from my direct bosses, CCO’s. My CCO would say: “We need more younger talent around here.” (Code: You’re too expensive) We need more creatives that know the digital world: (Code: You’re a dinosaur) “You’re a traditional thinker, we need folks that know the social landscape” (Code: You can’t learn anything new).

Did the reality of the ad industry contribute to the decisions you made/the path you’ve taken?
I would say the reality of the big agency world totally led us to start our own agency.  The leaders at our former agency didn’t have the vision to recognize we could reinvent ourselves in the face of the digital revolution. They also didn’t recognize that our strategic capabilities, close client relationships, and passion for the businesses were invaluable qualities they would not find in a “young” person.  Above all, they trivialized the level of our drive and ambition, which has not lessened just because we are older. 

What are your thoughts on where you are now, as you look back on your creative journey? 
Leaders who diminish you, who don’t promote you despite your incredible accomplishments, are dangerous. SILENCE THE NAYSAYERS. 

"Leaders who diminish you, who don’t promote you despite your incredible accomplishments, are dangerous."

What do you feel creative people over 50 can offer over someone 20 years their junior, things that are unappreciated, or just plain overlooked?   
Well, of course, it depends on the person…but if she  is an incredible talent who remains driven and passionate about the business, this person can offer invaluable advice, knowledge and support.  First, she has the experience to recognize when an agency culture is really special and rare, and can pass this knowledge on to younger talent that might take their job for granted. Second, she has the experience to know one needs incredible resilience in the business, so she will encourage young talent to keep the ideas coming and not brood too long. Third, she has strategic capabilities younger folks lack; so she can help young talent hone their ideas. Above all, as a creative leader, she can help inspire and drive their ideas to a smarter, fresher, better, place.

What is your advice to people who are nearing or over 40 in the ad industry?
If you start to sense you are being limited due to your age, seek a new role in which you can reposition yourself and/or be appreciated for the talents you have. 

How are you approaching the next 10 years?  What does your future hold?
I have never sensed ageism from my clients; only in the big agency world. My future holds whatever I want it to hold.

What’s one thing the industry could do to make you think they are taking combating ageism seriously? 
Unfortunately, I don’t t think the industry is taking this issue seriously.  It would  be a start to mandate hiring a certain percentage of people over 50.

"It would  be a start to mandate hiring a certain percentage of people over 50."

What do you see as potential solutions for ageism in the industry?  Any thoughts on possibly unionizing? 
We must start by recognizing that combating ageism is a huge undertaking, just like fighting discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, etc.  This is another aspect of the diversity conversation we’re having across the ad world, the business world, and the world at large.  Here are a few potential ways to move the needle:
1) Get clients committed to the issue. We’ve all seen that when clients demand a diverse team, agencies listen.  I’m not 100% sure all clients would find this issue relevant so I’d start with companies and brands that serve this demographic. AARP would be the perfect catalyst for change. Who is working on their account at Grey? 
2) Recruit a change-maker to start a movement/organization to fight ageism. Kat Gordon led the 3% movement to ignite real change in the industry. Who wants to lead this revolution? Rob? Susan? 
3)  Enlist entrepreneurs to make a difference.  As the leader of an agency, I have the power to make decisions without getting anyone’s permission. Terri & Sandy is a diverse organization and yet---this topic has not been on our radar. One big challenge is that each group fighting for diversity is fighting for a share of voice, and there’s very little buzz on this topic.  Again, the issue needs a champion to make a lot of noise and make us understand both the benefits of hiring older people and the injustices that occur when we do not. 

"As the leader of an agency, I have the power to make decisions without getting anyone’s permission."

What are some positive things you’ve experienced as you’ve grown older in the business?
Recognizing that the people in our business are wonderfully creative and original. 
Gaining the wisdom to recognize that when someone belittles you, THEY are the problem, not you.
A creative partnership is a wonderful gift that one should always treasure and appreciate. The right partnership can shield you from the battlefield that is advertising.

Who/what do you look to for inspiration? 
Movies. Sleep. Make every effort to connect with my teenage daughter, who tells me: “Mom, no one likes ads.  You need to make ‘em fun.”​​​​​​​

You may also like

Back to Top