The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Part 1: You Can’t Move Forward When You’re Looking Through The Rear View Mirror …

NOTE: As you know, I tend to pre-write my posts quite a bit in advance. I say this because when I wrote this, I was told the article I am basing my perspective on, would have come out. It hasn’t.

With that in mind, I’ve had to make a few changes to this post – and the comments – to remove the name of the person I am responding to because it is not fair he is being quoted when his words have not yet gone into the public domain. Sorry.
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This is going to be a long post.

OK, I know all my posts are long, but this is going to be epically long.

It’s so long, I’m actually going to split it over 2 days. No, seriously.

Before you dismiss it, please read a little more, because I am hoping you’ll be a part of it … and I don’t mean in terms of just taking the piss out of me.

So a few months ago, I was asked to comment on a piece by a global Chief Creative Officer of a global network agency, on how the ad industry can attract young creative talent.

Today I’m going to post his perspective and tomorrow I’ll post my response.

It’s a serious and major issue so if you can find it in your hearts to actually respond to it seriously, I’d be grateful. Who am I kidding, since when has that ever made you do something?

OK, so this is how the CCO see’s the situation.


On my first day at my first job, my boss asked me if I had read any of a list of literary masterpieces: Slaughterhouse 5, Catch 22 and a host of others. I hadn’t. And a few days later, he presented me with a gift for my ignorance: a stack of more than a dozen classic novels that I had not yet read.

A bit later in my career, I met Bob Isherwood, the first global creative director I ever really had access to as a young creative at Saatchi. From Bob, I witnessed firsthand how one bold and determined mind could influence a global network. His confidence, his willingness to take on risks and his ability to think without limitations still inspire my management and creative philosophies today.

These were some of the earliest instances I can point to in my career of the meaningful impact a seasoned creative’s guidance, wisdom and open arms, ears and door can have on a young creative’s journey.

There are so many people who have helped me throughout my career and now as a slightly more “experienced” creative, I have the honorable and gratifying opportunity to pay it forward and be for young creatives the kind of mentor and guide I had at their age. It’s a responsibility I’ve been proud to take on throughout my career.

But a lot has changed since my days as a fledgling creative. The young creatives of today are not the young creatives of my day.

Our responsibility, as advertisers and as creative leaders who value great work, is to make sure we get the great people to make that work, but in the past few years, there has been endless chatter about advertising’s talent crisis. The industry’s most popular publications have sounded off with theories dissecting why the ad world is no longer attracting and retaining the young talent it used to.

It’s clear that despite the importance we place on phenomenal work and despite the pressure we put on ourselves and our teams to make work that is innovative, boundary-breaking and reflective of the times, we do not pursue young creative talent with the same ferocity. We have not reworked our recruitment processes to accommodate and cater to the needs of the modern young creative. Our search for the young creative is not nearly as imaginative as the work we expect them to create.

And that is a serious mistake.

Young talent should be pursued like an all-agency brief. This next generation of CCOs, ECDs and Senior Art Directors are the future of advertising and failing to nurture, support and engage this group means we are opting out of an essential investment in advertising’s future and a vital opportunity to have a hand in the direction of creative work in the industry.

Every day young talent finds it way to the Facebooks and Googles of the world, and if we want to win them back; we have to work for it. How can our industry remain viable in the coming years if we do not invest in the creative minds of the future?

I am lucky to work for an agency that is aggressive, innovative and progressive in the ways it pursues young creative talent.

In 2014, we answered the long-heard call for more female creative leadership in the industry with the launch of a scholarship scheme. The scholarship, designed to support young, aspiring female creatives around the world, awards five individual annual scholarships and gives recipients paid internship placements at our offices.

This year, we launched another program, a global internship geared towards finding and nurturing talent in the next generation of creative minds, giving young professionals from Hong Kong to São Paulo the chance to work in an active agency setting, work on live briefs and collaborate with our network of experienced and talented teams.

Another of our internal programs, is an inclusive program that gives every office and every employee the opportunity to develop and share creative solutions for a live brief. These briefs are unique because they are formed under the assumption and, quite honestly, the new modern reality that great creative ideas don’t just come from the copywriter and art director. It forces us to undo our understanding of the traditional creative team and, ultimately, allows us to give a chance to the young account manager who might not have ever had the opportunity to stretch his creative legs. It pushes us to find creative gems under new rocks; to look beyond the creative department for the next generation’s creative minds.

The Millennials that make up today’s creative talent pool are drawn to culture and they’re keen on working for brands that have a social purpose that makes them feel like they’re making a difference. We need our agencies to build this kind of culture because our competitors are. And Millennials who feel the need to move from one place to another to build their careers, need this type of culture to stay long-term.

Beyond the theories and hypothesizing, I believe every advertiser needs to address the following questions to unlock the ever elusive but highly coveted young creative talent.

How are we stacking up against the ever-growing and ever-compelling tech industry in the eyes of young talent?

How are we making ourselves competitive in a marketplace that places the youth at the center of their crosshairs?

How have we shifted our understanding and engagement young talent to accommodate the new reality?

We won’t solve this issue overnight. But we can’t sleep until we do.


What do you think?

Fair? Naive? Have you got any better suggestions?

Regardless, tomorrow you’ll see how I replied – whether you like it or not. Ha.

26 Comments so far
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I’m looking forward to hearing your response Rob because _____ approach seems to be making the most of what he’s got rather than dealing with the issue that he’s facing.


Comment by Pete

I’m not sure older creative guys would want to join ______, forget young.


Comment by Bazza

But he’s doing something which is different to the usual agency approach of ignoring the problem.

Comment by Bazza

what is this person doing? some fucking internships and scam briefs. yeah, thats going to change the minds of millions of young fucks who can shove 50 fucking thoughts on social media in 50 fucking seconds. they might be shit ideas, but adland isnt churning out gold and they take 18 months to do one fucking thing.

Comment by andy@cynic

The data shows that millennials are not job-hoppers – an agency creative really should know that.

As for pursuing talent more actively, that makes sense but the issue is what are you offering them – is it just the opportunity to make ads and how does that match up to what they think Google, Facebook et al are offering?

Comment by John

That’s a very fair point John, but one of the reasons they change jobs so often is because they believe they shouldn’t have to wait to achieve what they believe they have a right to attain and so maybe the issue is less about them ‘wanting to swap’ but more ‘looking to feel fulfilled and satisfied’.


Comment by Rob

FFS You didn’t read what I wrote. The job-hopping thing is a myth. There’s tons of evidence on this – here’s one to be get you started

Comment by John

Not in China it’s not. But yes, I failed to read your comment properly, which sort of makes up for the fact you fail to bother reading any of my posts. Ha. In all seriousness though, if that’s the case – at least in the west – that makes adlands situation even worse … though I would like to delve into that data a bit more because I’d like to see how they got it and what factors they looked into.

Comment by Rob

This comment has nothing to do with this post …

To whoever changed the administrator’s name of this blog to Billy’s name – I have changed it back and more importantly, changed the password. I know it wasn’t Billy, but whoever it was, it’s not cool.

Comment by Rob

Steve? He probably will get Hillary’s emails for Trump if someone pays him enough.

Comment by Bazza

before you fucking blame me campbell, i had fuck all to do with it. yes i did it once but youre not worth the fucking effort anymore.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just read why you’ve changed some of the post and the comments. When did you get so considerate?

Comment by Bazza

When publishers bollocked him for breaking their embargo?

Comment by John

You’re assuming there are other people as sad as you lot who read this John. Surely that is impossible.

Comment by Rob

Nice try.

Comment by John

This is very interesting Robert and I look forward to reading your response tomorrow. I think the writer of this piece has failed to acknowledge the obvious. Advertising no longer has the cache, development prospects or creativity that other industries offer. In addition, these other industries are much closer and more meaningful to the lives of the millennial than advertising.

Comment by George

theyd rather have an std than a career in advertising and they dont have sex. or drink. or gamble. or do anything fucking interesting or fun. thank fuck im not one of them.

Comment by andy@cynic

I hope your response is more pragmatic than this Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

Is there evidence of a brain drain or is it an anecdotal hunch that snowballed?

No doubt the creative landscape has become more crowded since digital came along. And the definition of ‘advertising’ has become a lot looser, encompassing social, tech and online film content.

The media landscape has changed fundamentally. Youngsters aren’t brought up on TV any more. They’re jumping onto new social platforms and jumping off when too many advertisers gatecrash the party.

So is it a case of big traditional agencies bemoaning the lack of applications for them specifically?

Surely the best advertisements for this industry are the ads themselves. Ask any young creative what inspired them to enter the biz and they’ll namedrop specific ads.

Google’s doing ‘cool stuff’ all the time. Of course is attracting talent – it’s where the heat is.

So with 2 minutes’ thought on the issue:
1. Make better advertising.
2. Make yourself accessible.

Not a fan of positive discrimination to even up the numbers for the sake of it either. We want the best talent possible, not requisite quotas filling. I don’t buy the argument that creative departments that are too middle class, too male and too white. By and large it’s clients that define their target markets and how they’re depicted anyway.

Comment by The London Egotist

There is an issue that some millennials think they are more talented and qualified than they actually are but in your 2 minutes of thought, you have made more practical solutions than the global CCO has offered. I think that says more about them than you.

Comment by Bazza

The industry doesn’t have a crisis of talent. It has a crisis of relevance.

Comment by Marcus

The former has caused the latter.

Comment by George

I think it’s Campbell’s fault.

Comment by John

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Not that my opinion has any authority or importance, but:

“I am lucky to work for an agency that is aggressive, innovative and progressive in the ways it pursues young creative talent.”

If advertising could genuinely say the same about the work it produces nowdays (aggressive, innovative, progressive), then it wouldn’t have a problem with attracting talent, right? And probably also with the money to pay for it (both new and old), I assume.

Us vs The Googles = Creative mostly in theory vs Creative mostly in practice. Or at least some time it looks like this. A lot.

Comment by Ste

“Not that my opinion has authority or importance.”

That means you’re perfectly qualified to comment on this blog.

Comment by DH

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