Opinion: Perspective - Why the UK ad industry is crying out for new blood

You might have noticed a lot of young people in this week's issue. They're grads, new recruits to the industry, the people who are going to be doing your job in a few years' time. They're the future.

We've written a lot over recent months about adland's talent crisis, the difficulties of recruiting the best graduates, the nature of training and development, staff retention. The people who have just entered the business need to be nurtured and valued as never before.

So, welcome to our graduate issue. Doing our bit, and to help them on their way, we've launched a special graduate subscription package, a whole year of Campaigns for £29 (now what chief executive could refuse to sign that off?).

I can't think of another time in the history of the business when its youngest practitioners were so central to the development of the industry. These are the ad executives who have grown up gaming, surfing, e-mailing, texting, social networking. This new generation has a whole host of social and technical sensibilities locked into its DNA that the rest of us have merely grafted on. And it's those social and technical shifts that are redrawing the shape of the communications industry.

So in some ways the industry has much to learn from its juniors. What's more, those entering the business now do so at a time of fundamental change; they will be a part of the remodelling of the entire industry.

Mind you, this is an industry that all too often neglects wisdom and experience in pursuit of the young and the new. So we've also peppered this week's issue with some old hands; "If I had my time again" advice on page 13 and a celebration of mentors on page 28.

Being brutal about the state of the industry right now, while there's never been a more exciting time to enter the business, there's also never been a better opportunity to make an impact. The structural dynamics are accompanied by sluggish work. Creatively and intellectually, across disciplines, UK agencies are underachieving. As Andrew McGuinness puts it on page 13: "Never has the industry had so many opportunities to develop with so few ideas." So there's a gauntlet for you.

Let's hope adland's newest recruits prove to have more fight in them than their established colleagues when it comes to defending advertising freedoms. Most ad execs can't be bothered to get off their arses to take a stand against encroaching advertising restrictions; the industry has already rolled over too often, so that advertising curbs now seem a routine evil that must be accepted rather than fought.

What's more, adland has consistently failed to confidently champion self-regulation and seems resolutely ignorant/passive about future threats. If we're not careful, adland's grads won't have much to work on in a few years' time. Booze, cars, toys, food, airlines: staples of the ad industry, economic drivers, may all be either advertising history or so severely restricted that manufacturers look for other ways of marketing their products.

Think that sounds unlikely? If David Cameron comes to power, cars and airlines could be forced to include sizeable "health warnings" on their ads detailing their impact on the environment (page 4). And don't assume the Labour Party will be any more pro-advertising: ad curbs are seen as vote-winning issues.

Of course, for a lot of the most influential people in this business, this ad-restricted future is irrelevant. They will be enjoying nice pensions by the time adland is dealing with the fallout. That's the problem. Those in positions to make a difference have no selfish reason to do so.

So it's left to the new generation to fight for the future of their industry (assuming they see advertising as a long-term career ... which is another issue altogether). Make a start by signing Campaign's petition in support of responsible advertising: www.brandrepublic.com/actionforads.

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