EDITORIAL: Industry must fast track young talent

If the selection of bright young people spread across this week's Faces to Watch feature (page 18) is any yardstick, then the ad industry has no problem attracting an unfair share of the cream of Britain's education system. Relaxed and confident, they seem to epitomise a business confident in its belief that it can continue fielding the talent to satisfy increasingly demanding clients.

What's more, with thousands of college hopefuls still applying for the handful of jobs the industry offers each year, many agencies will feel confident that they can keep getting the pick of the crop. They will doubtless be reinforced in this belief by the amount of debt that graduates owe on completing their studies. This, combined with an economic downturn, means young recruits are less likely to flit between jobs.

But Campaign's own research reveals an undercurrent of discontent among graduates about too little pay and too little stimulation in their jobs.

Adland may be a magnet for the best young strategic and creative minds, but how good is it at keeping them? Moreover, how sure can it be that it isn't just attracting a high volume of young advertising wannabes but also the right ones?

The fact that four leading agencies are currently hunting for creative directors suggests that much more still needs doing in identifying and training the potential management stars once they're on board. At the other end of the scale, newly arrived graduates talk of university careers officers being either totally unhelpful or completely ignorant about the opportunities advertising has to offer. Clearly the IPA and other industry bodies still have much to do if the industry is to hold its own against the allure of banking or management consultancy.

This will become increasingly difficult as the amount of student debt grows and agencies, their margins under relentless pressure, find it hard to match the salary offerings of rival professions. But, for young people joining such a slimmed-down industry, there's probably never been a better time for the most talented to be fast-tracked towards important and responsible jobs.

That in itself could be a powerful weapon in the recruitment armoury. But there's an even better one. Working in advertising may not necessarily be a passport to wealth, but it can still offer the kind of fulfilment and fun that will never be found in any bank.