"Don’t be discouraged, be excited. This is our chance to change the game,” Saffron Renzullo, a junior creative at The Brooklyn Brothers, says. Renzullo, who joined the industry only last year, is one of the many inspiring, diverse and talented individuals who have been chosen to be Campaign’s Faces to Watch 2020 and are unveiled in this issue.
Amid all the bleak news about redundancies, recruitment freezes and cost-cutting, it is cheering to hear the optimism of these future industry leaders. Of course, they are worried about the impact of Covid-19 on their careers, but they are also not afraid of the challenges that lie ahead. “Challenging times push us to find new ways of getting things done,” says one of the group, M&C Saatchi’s senior creative Camila Gurgel. While another, Jidé Maduako, co-founder of Yoke Network, says: “If you stay dedicated and find ways to invest in yourself, you can achieve anything. You don’t have to follow the status quo, you can change the world.”
The advertising industry depends on young talent, but there are, rightly, concerns that it worships too much at the fountain of youth and disregards experience.
Indeed, when we asked some of adland’s top leaders, not only did most say they thought the pandemic would affect all levels of staff equally, 22% actually thought it would be the senior people who may face the biggest crunch in terms of career security due to their higher salaries and therefore cost to the business.
That said, there’s no denying the damaging long-term impact the crisis will have on the career development of those looking to enter the workforce now. When asked about the next generation who are coming up behind them, our Faces to Watch were anxious: 75% said they were either “very worried” (30%) or “worried” (45%) about Covid-19’s impact on the careers of future generations.
So too were advertising and media leaders. Almost all the businesses we asked have either reduced or eliminated their placement schemes (77%) and entry-level jobs (68%) this year. The majority (73%) of adland’s business leaders think that Covid-19 will make it harder for young talent to get into and progress within the industry.
Even once they have made it through the door, remote working creates huge barriers to career progression.
Meanwhile, another concern is the impact this crisis will have on the industry’s efforts to become more diverse and inclusive as these issues are pushed aside in the face of difficult financial circumstances.
We can’t let that happen. Adland needs to be careful not to jeopardise its future while fighting to keep business going today.
The leaders of adland’s most prestigious colleges remain optimistic about their students’ long-term prospects. The Watford Course leader, Tony Cullingham, points out that there are many more places for creative graduates to ply their wares, from digital agencies to content agencies, studios to clients’ creative departments. “Historically, recessions have been good for creative graduates,” he says. “Agencies have used the opportunity of a recession to re-gear, get leaner and this has meant openings for hungry, talented, young people.”
The School of Communications Arts’ dean, Marc Lewis, says remote working can be a blessing and a curse: “I see opportunity in abundance. My students could get hired by TBWA\New Zealand, while working in London.” But he urges the industry to think carefully about its actions: “Young talent needs nurturing, and older talent needs to be better valued. We’ve seen that mistake in every recession since the early 1990s.”
Let’s do things differently this time. Even small changes add up. For example, the IPA is cutting members’ fees by 25% next year and made its training courses free to members until last month to help those on furlough. Havas London is allowing the Watford Course students to work temporarily out of the agency’s King’s Cross offices.
There is evidence that people are hungry to “brain-up” and make themselves as attractive as possible to their current or future employer, too. A new online training course by Thinkbox aimed at fixing the media industry’s “growing education gap” in TV racked up 2,000 sign-ups in its first week, exceeding the expectations of the marketing body for the whole year.
The free TV Masters training course teaches planning and buying theory as well as advertising effectiveness and the impact of data and technology. While it’s true that improving adland’s TV knowledge benefits Thinkbox’s members, the course offers an option to take a final exam that is certified by the IPA and CPD UK, so it will contribute in a meaningful way to the personal development of its learners.
Meanwhile, M&C Saatchi’s Open House, a free, eight-week online course for anyone who wants to learn about a career in advertising, has had more than 1,500 people sign up from around the world. With 35% of its take-up being from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, it is achieving its aim of reaching out to underrepresented groups. The agency has enlisted its client O2 to help to select up to 15 candidates who will take up positions or placements at the agency.
Nina Bibby, chief marketing officer at O2, says that together with the agency she is “looking forward to exploring how we can nurture future talent and open doors to the brightest minds”.
Campaign is trying to help, and invited students from the Brixton Finishing School to observe and take part in the Big Awards judging in October. We also asked the winners of the Media Week 30 Under 30 talent search in July to judge the Media Week Awards in September.
There are other ways for individuals to assist. Stephen Allan, the former global chief executive of MediaCom, recalls how he benefitted from mentors earlier in his career and he is urging others to follow his lead and do “something as small as responding to a monthly email with reassurance or advice” during the pandemic.
It’s time to pull together to make sure advertising’s faces of tomorrow do not go missing.