Nurture young talent to stem the creative exodus from adland

Seb is Marketing Week’s agency specialist.

Last week I wrote how creativity was being stifled at some of the bigger agency networks, as indicated by the growing migration of senior talent from adland to start-ups in recent years.

Indeed, the trend is as much due to the exertions of the dire global economy on brands as it is a natural part of agency life, but rather than let creativity dwindle, agencies should be looking to the next generation of talent.

Graduate schemes have long been a staple part of the industry’s recruitment strategy, with many agencies fast-tracking talented grads as quickly as possible to keep the industry desirable for them. But, with the lack of self-promotion from the industry in education, there’s still so much more that could be done to nurture young people.

University is no longer the sure fire way into the industry it once was. I spoke to one junior creative last week who told me that agencies were far more interested in their portfolio and awards than their actual degree. A harsh reflection of the lack of faith in today’s advertising courses.

At a time where graduates are struggling more than ever, people are leaving university ill-equipped with little or no understanding as to how the advertising industry works.


The initiative, Hyper Island and to an extent, youth communications agency Livity are trying to address this lack of insight by placing a greater emphasis on encouraging young people to try out every aspect of the creative process rather than pigeonholing too early.

In May Hyper Island joined forces with ad agencies, pure digital agencies, broadcasters and clients to launch an education programme in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The scheme is intended as an alternative start to a career in the digital media sector, with no teachers, homework or textbooks.

Backed by the likes of broadcaster MTV and digital agency Code Computerlove, students will gain a higher education qualification from Teeside University.

The focus shouldn’t only be on graduates, but also school-leavers, who may not be able to afford university. But have a great deal to offer, especially in nascent disciplines such as mobile and social media.

Livity, which doubles as a social enterprise, works with 12 to 21 year olds on campaigns for broadcasters, brands and charities. Earlier this year, it worked with the NSPCC on user generated content campaign, which went on to generate almost 1 million views and had over 1,000 submissions.

Industry experts will argue that where there are just so many people graduating, it’s becoming harder for agencies to track strong talent. Greater involvement from the advertising and marketing industries while students are still in education is arguably the way to avoid saturation.

Advertising is inherently meritocratic and graduates are drawn to the long hours and low pay in the belief that their creativity will be rewarded. Agencies need to start doing this better now, if they’re to move on from business models that are far too reliant on ad volume than creativity.

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