Where have all the young adland characters gone?
A view from Danny Rogers

Where have all the young adland characters gone?

Although the Cannes festival has become a truly international affair, the legends of British advertising were hitting the headlines - back in Blighty.

Nigel Bogle, the co-founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, received a knighthood, joining his colleague Sir John Hegarty. Peter Mead, the charismatic co-founder of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, was given a CBE. Meanwhile, Charles Saatchi, the maverick co-founder of Saatchi & Saatchi, made the front pages for less auspicious reasons after a "playful tiff" with his wife, Nigella Lawson. And even Sir Martin Sorrell was in the papers, weathering the latest WPP shareholder storm over his £17.6 million annual compensation.

With all of these characters hovering around the age of 70, it was a reminder that advertising is still dominated by the generation of Mad Men who created their agencies in the 70s and 80s.

At an illuminating session at the Advertising Association conference earlier this year, several senior journalists bemoaned the lack of new "characters" emerging from the British ad industry.

They have a point. The industry is crying out for some new names to be considered for the Queen’s honours; for younger faces to be snapped scrapping in Scott’s (or Shoreditch House, if more apt).

The aforementioned characters are also all men. And one suspects the next generation of advertising and media superstars are just as likely to be female. Last week’s Wacl party was an insight into the incredible array of powerful women in British advertising. Most of the assembled 300 guests at The Serpentine were at chief marketing officer, or agency chief executive, level.

But it’s not just seniority, it’s also the ability to make news and set the agenda. This is what we journalists cry out for. One recognises this is no mean feat in an age when most executives are working harder than ever and with carefully scrutinised budgets.

Unfortunately, we also operate in an age – defined by New Labour spin doctors – when variance from the party line is seen as unacceptable: a "gaffe". We journalists need to be part of the solution to this: resisting the temptation to look askance on any forthright viewpoint or maverick "slip". We must also search harder for the "real players" emerging from today’s creative industries (who are just as likely to be running digital agencies as traditional creative shops).

Equally, we require today’s bosses to become "leaders"; to take a stand and speak their minds. Instead of family fisticuffs over the farfalle, let’s have some true business bravado and brio from Generations X and Y.

danny.rogers@haymarket.com
@dannyrogers2001

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