Media Perspective: We shouldn't expect everyone to stay in advertising forever

My esteemed editor tells me that this is the graduate/recruitment issue, and that, consequently, it would have been better if last week's column had been this. Because last week's column was all about a bunch of new and interesting people who were moving into advertising, and that would be a splendid encouragement for graduates considering a career.

Well, I thought, I can do better than that. I once annoyed the IPA by suggesting that the great thing about advertising is that it's a brilliant career to leave. I'd like to revise that; advertising is also a brilliant industry to pass through, to spend a few years on the way from or to the thing you're really into.

And this isn't a bad thing: advertising and media shouldn't be jealous of people's occupational affections. Rather, we should be grateful that we have the capacity to attract a few years' attention from people interested in the new, new thing - because we need that to stay relevant in a world that moves faster than we do.

Last week, I cited the example of Dan Hon moving to Wieden & Kennedy as an illustration of this. He's a games expert, a games designer - his passion is games. I suspect at some point in his life he'll build an absolutely extraordinary game. Maybe he'll do it within an agency, perhaps he won't, but in the meantime, agencies and clients absolutely need access to the skills and arcane knowledge of people like him because there's a mini "brand games" boom underway, and there's a horrible risk we'll get it entirely wrong.

We have discussed the dangers of gamification here before: the risk that the heavy-handed deployment of gaming tactics will destroy a potentially fruitful way of talking with people. And the early danger signs are certainly there: just today, for instance, I read of a marketing conference where the panel on gamification didn't include a single games designer.

Badges, rewards, achievements and the other tools of gaming are powerful - they can get people to do things. But they need to deployed by someone who understands the subtlety of their interaction and dynamics, otherwise you get all sorts of unintended consequences or, worse, games with compulsion but no fun.

Get this wrong and games will end up as poisoned and misused by marketing as the web has been; get it right and we'll have another great way to talk with people. And getting it right depends on attracting the right people at the right time, not relying on industry-grown talent, but welcoming expertise from other worlds.

So, if there are any graduates reading this, not tempted by advertising this time around, please consider us later, we're a lovely place to visit, even if you don't want to live here.

russell@russelldavies.com.

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