EDITORIAL: Tracking graduate recruits in adland

When, in July, Campaign published an anonymous attack on the way the ad industry treats its graduate recruits, reaction ranged from empathy to disbelief.

Our unidentified former industry trainee had bailed out after a few years in advertising, disillusioned and unmotivated. "Working long hours on uncreative advertising, feeling under-valued and under-utilised and figuring out an agency spends more on cheese than they do on their graduates makes one feel 'what's the point'," our writer raged. Certainly, many of the sentiments expressed struck a chord with readers, forced to acknowledge the veracity of at least some of the complaints.

Yet for all that, this particular graduate had joined one of the most respected agencies in London at a boom time for the advertising industry.

What can today's graduates, signing up in the midst of one of the gloomiest periods the industry has seen, expect from their chosen career?

This week Campaign launches a major two-year study of graduate recruitment in the advertising industry. In the opening feature, on page 20, we look at how many graduates agencies have recruited this year, in what disciplines and what starting salaries are being offered.

In many ways, this scene-setter provides surprising reading. Despite the waves of redundancies that have rocked the business, graduate recruitment remains reasonably healthy. And there's no doubt graduates still see advertising as a desirable career. Encouragingly, starting salaries are perhaps higher than constant carping about slave labour might suggest.

What's also interesting is the fact that new recruits are being thrown in at the deep-end more than ever before. Reduced workforces mean greater opportunities for graduates to experience agency life at the coalface.

But the story behind the figures is how the graduates perceive the industry they've entered. Is it living up to expectations? Are agencies countering the gloomy atmosphere of recession? Are they still investing in training, nurturing their new talent, or are they expecting too much of their newcomers in an attempt to paper over the cracks of widespread redundancies? And, crucially, do advertising's new graduates see this as a career for life?

Over the next two years Campaign will be tracking the careers of a handful of this year's graduate trainees, following them through their first months and years in the business. It should make fascinating reading and reveal whether the lessons from one anonymous graduate's comments have been learnt.

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