EDITORIAL: Who is failing who in the ad industry?

What a bleak and depressing picture this week's Campaign essay paints of agencies' treatment of their bright and eager young talent. The writer spent 18 months in a leading agency as a graduate trainee, an experience which has left her crushed and disillusioned. She complains of being left bored and unstimulated, of having to work for a pittance and of being bullied when she asked for more money.

Her comments are bound to polarise opinion. Some will dismiss them as the naive observations of somebody who wanted to run before she had learned to walk, while others, particularly some of the newest entrants to the industry, will identify with her comments about being exploited and under-valued.

As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere between these two extremes.

The writer's disinclination to work on a client "that has been churning out the same old shite for years says as much about her as it does about the advertiser. Many of the best agency chiefs and most talented creative directors worked their passage on such business and would argue its importance as a learning curve. Producing the best advertising you can becomes a lot easier when you've experienced some of the worst.

Nevertheless, her verdict on her brief agency career can't be put down merely to misguided youthful impatience. In many ways, she articulates the feelings of a generation which has a very different take on a fulfiled life. A buoyant employment market has allowed young people to flit easily from job to job, even from career to career. They need to be stimulated and excited from the start or they'll quit. Moreover, graduates once entered the industry certain in the belief that they were in advertising for their working lives. No longer.

It's a situation that presents agencies with an acute dilemma.Their graduate salaries are no match for those offered by management consultancies or merchant banks. They also compete in a massively over-supplied market handling accounts which can't generate enough revenue to offer generous salary packages.

Yet in many other respects, there's never been a better time to be entering the business. The media explosion cries out for innovative thinking about the best way to reach information-saturated consumers. What a challenge for young and lively minds.


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