50 years ago, as Campaign was going to press for the first time, my parents were planning their wedding. Things were rather different back then.
Once married, my mother gave up work and – like many of her friends – never really returned. Of course, mum had the full time (and totally unpaid) role of raising children and absolutely supporting dad’s career for almost 40 years. In truth, my father’s profession defined us as a family.
That was the ‘60s. The time of industry legends like Ogilvy and Bernbach; the ‘golden era’ of advertising, fuelled by the rise of mass consumerism, youth culture and disposable income. A decade that brought with it incredible societal changes that are impacting our lives today: important reform around abortion, divorce and homosexuality; the pill was introduced; 850 women in Dagenham went on strike for equal pay. The decade came to an epic close, with the world watching the first steps on the moon.
Even with all of that excitement of the 1960s, nobody could have predicted how far society would have moved on today.
We live in a world of constant change. Turn on the news and it’s easy to be pretty baffled – frightened, even - about the outlook: the environment, Brexit, house prices, Trump. Advertising and creativity is completely dead of course. And the robots will take all our jobs. Run. Run for the hills!
Calm down, dear. Creative thinking is hardwired into our DNA and will remain as important as it was 50 years ago. The same with technology. And automation. In 50 years’ time there will still be goods, products and services that need selling. Meh, maybe we’ll call it advertising, maybe we won’t (we will). There will still be jobs. Some will be the same. Many will be new.
I find it heartening to remember that Britain’s creative industry (including advertising), plays a crucial part of the future economy and is something we should be very proud of. It employs 2 million people, is worth over £90 billion and the industry is growing twice as fast as the economy as a whole. The Creative Industries Sector Deal announced in March this year is a strong statement of intent that focuses on investment across innovation, STEM education and cutting-edge tech.
So what of the future? "We cannot underestimate how much the creative agency landscape has changed over the past five years" darkly whispered a big dawg CSO I work with. And it’s true. The production model, in-house model, business transformation consultancies and brand hubs have all been happily (*buzz word alert*) disrupting the status quo haven’t they. Well, good! We can’t just stand still, can we? Let’s crack on and see where it leads us.
And the future of careers? Well, when it comes to this, we’re really talking about life. My life. Your life. Whilst there’s really no crystal ball here, we can consider a few current themes and mull over what they might mean.
Might as well get this one over and done with first
What we do know is that Brexit - AKA whatthefuckisgoingon - is driving business uncertainty, which
in turn affects the job market from the top down.
That said, we’ve got over significant bumps in the road before: whatever happens, we will get over
this one. My mum tells me "life goes on" whenever things don’t go to plan. She’s right.
What about diversity?
Current entry routes into the industry are tight, particularly given the current economic climate.
Snowflakes? Are you kidding? Icicles trying to climb a mountain, more like. Give them a break!
It’s up to all of us to shape the industry we want in the future and we must all consider – today –
how we are sending the lift down, how often and to whom. Assuming we want a best-in-class industry that reflects our society, we must be more inclusive and work harder to welcome a richer spread of individuals to the fold. What is your company doing to nurture an inclusive culture?
In 50 years’ time, if we get entry routes into the industry right, it will be more inclusive throughout
and pay gaps should be less stark than they are now.
And working parents?
Whilst there is a pretty robust male:female ratio overall, there is still a clear talent drain of working
mums, and worrying inflexibility towards working dads.
For an industry that has spent decades appealing so heavily to youth audiences and parent pockets,
isn’t it just so odd that many company cultures have been so unwelcoming of people who actually
Thankfully, whilst there is work to be done, we are going in the right direction as flexible hours are
becoming normalised – for dads, as well as mums (and indeed for anyone who is a carer).
Companies will need to continuously think about their corporate culture, and what community they
are building. Does your company, for example, have clear parental leave policies in place (or is it still
something negotiated on the dreaded ‘case by case’ basis)? Are parents in your company able to go
to school sports day and Christmas concerts without taking a whole day’s leave? Can they easily work from home when a dependent is unwell without colleagues rolling their eyes?
This is not special treatment; it’s a positive way society can behave, and a mature way of building employer / employee trust. If your company is doing this already, great. If not, why on earth not?
We’ll be working longer, right?
Absolutely. In 50 years’ time there will be way more over 50s than there are children in the UK. This is a massive societal shift.
Do you want to be doing what you’re doing now, forever? Hell no? Non-linear career paths and
career switches will become more normal.
But, for now, think about how you perceive age. When you look at a CV, do you instantly scroll to
the back page to ascertain the applicant’s age? Are you instantly disregarding people based on their abundance of experience? Do hiring managers in your company only ever hire people younger than themselves?
And think about this: with fewer young people entering the workforce, companies will need to develop stronger L&D strategies to help their existing employees keep up with the pace of change. Hopefully scrapheaping will be a thing of the past.
Of course, keeping up with the new is a challenge for us all – personal and corporate. Every day is a
school day: keep learning. And for gawdsake don’t put off your retirement planning.
Will we move jobs all the time?
That’s up to you. People are indeed moving jobs faster than ever before and our relationship
with our employers is changing. The term ‘gig economy’ can make it sound like career nirvana is
just around the corner: you can choose your hours, earn bags of money, skip from one gig to another
and be totally #winning the life/career merry-go-round.
The point is to stick to your path and – if you are choosing to move jobs – do so when it is right for
you, not because ‘everyone says’ you should move companies every 12-18 months.
Employers highly value attributes such as adaptability, pragmatism and resilience: the more senior
you get, the more they will seek out those qualities. In return, you should expect a decent suite of
grown-up benefits and play by grown-up rules.
And we’ll all work remotely from the beach, yes?
Tech will continue to enable us to work effectively away from the office. It can (quite literally) be a
breath of fresh air and we can only predict this gathering pace.
That said, I doubt we’ll all completely forgo working in an office environment. Businesses are a
community of people, after all. The happier the individuals are, the better the community works as a
whole. Being together will continue to be part of that...just not necessarily parked at a desk for
nine hours a day with a hellish peak time commute either side.
With that said, do try to switch off. Put your phone down. Stop checking your emails late into the night. Unless of course you are actually on the beach and working to a different time zone.
So where will we be in 2068? I’d hope: looking at a diverse pool of talented people working in the vibrant, globally respected creative industry that I have adored since I was a teenager. Mainly though, I hope we will all have followed our own path in life and remembered the most important things: family, friends and community. As that’s probably all I’ll remember when I’m 90.
In the meantime, we’ll raise a glass to say Happy 50th, Campaign. And happy golden anniversary, Elizabeth and John. Love you guys.