A view from Claire Beale

Editor's Perspective: Why this generation will have adland at its feet

Steve Henry has just written a blog for Campaignlive called Teenage Kicks, all about Generation Y.

Henry's blog is inspired by a recent debate hosted by Albion, which asked whether the dawn of Gen Y was also the end of the era of rebellion. As Henry says: "Jesus, I fucking hope not. Is there nothing worth fighting against these days?"

The ad industry must hope not, too. As its latest batch of graduates settle in, it's imperative they do so with a mandate for disruption. Generalising wildly, the industry's new recruits (the Gaming Generation, the Net Generation) come with disruption in their DNA: they simply do not have the same sense of limits as the generation before them. And nor do they have the same respect for corporate life, for career, as their predecessors: having interesting experiences and investing energy into their own passions can be more important than a career for life and investing energy in the corporate bottom line.

This may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable to their workaholic predecessors but it's a useful attitude for an ad industry that so desperately needs to embrace dramatic change. We know change needs to come and the lead is most likely to be taken by those with little reverence for, and no experience of, industry traditions. Harnessing Gen Y-ers' hunger for interesting challenges, that "anything's possible" approach, is vital as the ad business tries to kick out of recession.

Which is perhaps why Henry also reckons that one of the great qualities of these Gen Y-ers is their embracing of failure, their lack of fear of failure. "Experimenting without having the paralysing fear of failure is at the heart of all true creativity," he says.

He's right. Which is why it's fantastic to see more evidence of the industry's enthusiasm for nurturing young talent. Agencies' support for the training programmes like those offered by Nabs, the IPA, Robin Wight's Ideas Foundation and the new School for Communication Arts is proof of a growing recognition that without investment in a new and diverse pool of talent, the industry will have an uncertain future.

But all of this, too, is an argument for why the ad business should value experience and wisdom more than it seems to. Yes, it needs disruption to come from the bottom, but (sometimes, often) that needs to be tempered by good judgment borne out of years of knowledge of the business. After all, consider how few of our original digital agencies (launched by brilliant young entrepreneurs who saw the future well before the Luddites at the big comfortable agencies did) matured into long-term businesses without the addition of a few wise old heads at the top.

So I thoroughly recommend every graduate turns immediately to page 21 to revel in a bit of Jeremy Bullmore and then check out Henry's blog on Campaignlive for a view from the other end.

- claire.beale@haymarket.com

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