Entitled, narcissistic, fickle: the traditional complaints levelled at "generation snowflake" could perhaps lead you to believe that the future of the advertising industry is in less-than-safe hands.
In a landscape in which high performance among young people is often taken as a sign that things are getting easier, Nabs' Fast Forward programme suggested something different. The high standard, insight and enthusiasm from the young teams ignited a new thought: what if young people are getting better, more talented and more attuned to audience needs because they are less wedded to legacy structures and systems?
Fast Forward is Nabs’ flagship eight-week training programme that brings together delegates from across the industry to work on a live brief for a charity client. This year, teams tackled a brief from suicide-prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably.
The winner, Team Malik, proposed an innovative partnership with the music industry with a campaign called "Hear to Help" to generate awareness and behaviour change for millions. It was a brave and ambitious idea that was supported by their mentors Kat Arnull, head of strategy at Freuds and Clive Baker, managing partner at Movement.
Mentoring involves giving up that most precious and finite resource: time. Yet not only is it rewarding, but it can often be educational, too, because the mentors get the opportunity to see the world through a lens other than their own.
With this in mind, we asked a selection of mentors from this year’s programme what they learned from working with talent at the beginning of their careers.
Vice-president of strategy, Unruly
The next time I hear colleagues in the industry bemoaning the "overwhelming sense of entitlement that the younger generation of media talent exhibit", I will take great pleasure in correcting them.
The team my co-mentor and I had the pleasure of working with not only possessed the valuable skills that you would hope to use when working on a complex and emotive pitch like this but, more than that, real pride. They took great care in conducting thorough research, they were meticulous in the way they sense-checked all of their ideas to ensure the client would absolutely get what they needed from the proposed campaign. They really and truly cared not just about the work but, more importantly, the cause. To have that depth of pride in your work so that what you do is purely authentic and respectful – it has filled me with a renewed sense of purpose in my own job and also a brighter outlook on the future of our industry.
Deputy managing director, Adam & Eve/DDB
I was blown away by the talent on Nabs' Fast Forward this year. Having spent most of my career in new business, the quality of the ideas and the way the teams presented them was a huge eye-opener to the exceptional talent coming up through our industry. But while it’s reassuring to believe that the future of our industry is in safe hands, I can’t help thinking that we need to be better-equipped to support the next generation.
Mentors traditionally have been a sounding board for career moves, opening up doors and providing inspiration. But in today’s fast-paced, "always on" world, where our work and personal lives are increasingly blurred, they have a much broader role than ever before. An awareness of mental well-being goes without saying but, much like this year’s brief from CALM, championing honesty and vulnerability as a sign of workplace strength has never been more important.
Business director, 23red
I loved seeing my team come up with ideas and build upon them, as opposed to chalking up 50 reasons why they wouldn’t work at the outset. Feasibility, brand guidelines, budgets – yes, they’re important, but they’re not the ideal incubator for big, brave thinking. My team also reminded me of the importance of nurturing diversity of thought and skill; they were a wonderful mix of disciplines and personalities. Over the course of the eight weeks, they found their roles and supported each other to excel in them.
Nabs’ Fast Forward has been the best reminder of how important it is to make time for things beyond your day job. The potential for fun and learning in our industry is endless – we need to remember that and give ourselves the opportunity to tap into it as often as we can.
Strategist, OMD UK
Working with young talent from across disciplines at media agencies, advertising agencies and media owners, it has been refreshing to be reminded we should amount to more than the sum of our parts. Fast Forward instils in the next generation a simple but all important message of collaboration.
Mentoring at Nabs' Fast Forward has been a great training for me and I have also learned plenty from co-mentors and delegates alike. Under strict time pressures that a pitch brings, "roughly right is better than precisely wrong" (courtesy of Jo Baker at Google) resonated with me from the outset. Delegates also weren’t afraid to acknowledge the fact people aren’t generally interested in advertising, instead using the fact as a benchmark to communicate better.
Planning director, Mr President
Mentoring represents a rather special opportunity to not be the one responsible for the answers; instead, to be responsible for asking all the right questions. This frees the mind to get "back to basics" and constantly refocus on the core components of what makes a successful marketing campaign. And also to widen one’s peripheral vision, as the output often takes flight into interesting places you wouldn’t normally get to.
When you bring developing talent together from across our industry’s disciplines, siloes are broken down and the constraints of "the way we’ve always done it" evaporate; instead, freedom of mind reigns. It’s a demonstration of why diversity (in every sense of the word) is so important to the work we all do day to day; when people from different backgrounds and mindsets come together, new creative opportunities are unlocked. That’s something that the next generation of talent really reveals: the power of diverse backgrounds to lead us down an interesting and undiscovered path.
Head of planning, Starcom
The real power of Fast Forward for me is seeing the ideas, energy and passion from the fresh talent that have joined the industry. Every year, I am inspired by the way they approach a brief and by how they view the world.
This year, I’ve been fascinated by how a young, digitally native group approach content, encouraged by how they view "traditional" media channels and amazed by how they hack new ways to collaborate without relying on legacy systems. It has even helped inspire new ways of approaching briefs and new business within my agency by always ensuring we have fresh thinking at the heart of our responses.
At a time when every week there are articles about the threats to the future of our industry, Fast Forward makes me believe that the industry I love is in very safe hands.