A view from Claire Beale

Rise of the fuck off fund

Generation Z will demand that their work is an opportunity for self-discovery and self-development.

Campaign had dinner last week with the new team at Bartle Bogle Hegarty. You might have noticed that there have been a few changes to the management line-up over there of late, so here was the next generation of management, sleeves rolled up and eager to get the agency back to form.

I say new team but, in true BBH style, many have spent most of their career at the agency: freshly minted managing director Adam Arnold has clocked up 16 years and there’s no doubt that the agency prides itself on nurturing loyal talent.

Table talk over dinner turned to the newer entrants into the ad industry and how likely they were to hang around in the business for the long haul. Will any agency in the future be able to boast that its chief executive joined as a graduate trainee 25 years ago? Or will businesses be forced to accept that travelling the world, or spending a few years volunteering, or working part-time in advertising while teaching yoga or DJ-ing, will take precedence over a career-for-life approach?

If you imagine young employees will feel anything like the same corporate (or even industry) loyalty that their predecessors do and will be prepared to make similar compromises on behalf of their employer, then look out for this issue’s feature, The Stress Report.

Apparently, Generation Z will demand that their work is an opportunity for self-discovery and self-development. AppNexus chief people officer Brandon Atkinson reckons there’s a greater expectation from young staff that their employers should "invest in their whole selves". A big salary (and, anyway, let’s face it, probably not one as big as their predecessors commanded) just won’t cut it any more.

Most decent companies in our business aren’t bad at some of this softer stuff, but it’s often as much a sop for all the late nights, weekend working and curtailed holidays as it is recognition of a fundamental shift in the relationship young staff expect to have with their work.

And if all the late nights and weekend working and curtailed holidays get too much, then chances are Gen Z will dip into their "fuck off fund". Not necessarily a stash of cash, the fuck off fund is just as likely to be a portfolio of skills that mean they can go off and earn money as a photographer or selling jewellery or writing a blog for a while.

We’re a very long way from working out what all this means for company cultures, for marketer/agency relationships, for always-on communications, for our timesheet-driven service culture, for staff training and development, and for our professional communities. While our industry is still led by people who have advertising in their blood, none of this matters much. But it will – and sooner than you probably think.