Editorial: Why advertising should look after 'crown jewels'

They are adland's crown jewels and you can find them on pages 26, 27 and 28. Known as The Class of 2007, these gems will soar in value as experience enhances their already pro-ven talent. The industry would be mad to squander them.

This may seem like a statement of the obvious. But the sad fact is that agencies' record at stimulating and cherishing their brightest young talent has not always borne close scrutiny. Treating young newcomers like serfs and paying them a pittance was never OK. Not when advertising could rely on a queue of eager graduates knocking on its doors. And certainly not now that other professions, from management consultancy to merchant banking, are equally alluring.

This makes it harder than ever for the industry to secure its succession management. Time was when those entering advertising expected to spend their entire working lives within it. Not any more. The perpetual state of uncertainty in which the industry lives has not led to much employment security. But a lot of young people neither expect nor want it. If they are not enjoying what they do they may quickly up sticks in search of something more gratifying.

And it's not necessarily about money. Today's youngsters are often more concerned about the personal fulfilment to be gained by backpacking across the world rather than financial reward. Just as well really, since the £18,000 to £20,000 salaries paid to graduates are significantly smaller than the £30,000 average starting pay at a merchant bank or a management consultancy. For those saddled with a large student debt this may be an important consideration.

So what is to be done to stop the crown jewels being stolen? Paying respectable salaries would be a start but is not a solution. The technological explosion is opening up exciting new ways of communicating with consumers. Most young people have embraced this change. If their knowledge and enthusiasm can be harnessed, then the business will not only have a workforce capable of coping with the communications revolution but also one that is willing to stay for the long term.

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