For young talent, advertising still has the power of attraction

For young talent, advertising still has the power of attraction

A series of interviews in partnership with the IAA France showed that many young people are drawn to advertising, but that their vision of the industry is not keeping pace with its rapid evolution.

Our interviewees, clockwise from top left: Antoinette Beatson (BETC); Bas Korsten (VML); Shilpa Sinha (McCann Worldgroup); Mary Hargreaves (Lancaster University).

Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to four people from very different corners of the advertising world. Two creative leaders – one based in France, the other in the Netherlands, but with a global role – a strategist in Asia, and an academic in the United Kingdom.

The mission was to find out how young people perceive the industry, what’s being done to educate them about it, and what kind of people decide to come into advertising as their first job. The full interviews make fascinating reading (see the links at the end of this piece). Meanwhile, here are the key findings.

  • Advertising is still considered an exciting career option

The fear going in to this project was that young people would have a largely negative view of advertising, associating it with the “middle-aged white male” environment of Mad Men, the industry of interruption, or a tool to encourage over-consumption.

In fact, as they’ve grown up with social media, YouTube and TikTok, many young people see advertising as part of a media landscape they find alluring. They also realize that it’s a competitive environment.

They still find it exciting. They worry that it’s hard to get into…But they feel it’s a career you can enjoy; that it’s more fun than other industries.

Mary Hargreaves, Teaching Fellow, Advertising & Marketing degree (BA Hons), Lancaster University, UK

They consider it cool, but challenging. It’s inspiring, but also intimidating. It’s exciting, but very exacting.

Shilpa Sinha, Chief Strategy Officer APAC, McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific

  • Views of advertising can be stereotyped or out of date

One common thread among the interviews was that many young people only discover how rich in opportunities the industry can be when they start working at an agency. They are surprised by how many disciplines and functions make up the word “advertising”.

One of the challenges of bringing young people into the business is that it’s evolved so much. It has so many facets, it’s so diverse, that it’s not as homogenic as the image young people may have of it.

Bas Korsten, Global Chief Creative Officer, Innovation and Co-Chief Creative Officer, EMEA, VML

I think if clients could partner with us in designing programmes that give young people a fuller understanding of the business, newcomers to the industry would feel far more confident.

Shilpa Sinha

  • “Creativity” is a major selling point

All the interviewees felt that young people were attracted by the concept of “creativity” and the prospect of a job that enabled them to be creative.

A lot of (students) want to be Creatives with a big ‘C’. I often tell them that all the roles are creative with a small “c”.

Mary Hargreaves

Some studies show that “creativity” is more valued than intelligence – and it ranks first in the list of the best soft skills to have.

Antoinette Beatson, Vice-President, Executive Creative Director, BETC, France

  • Those who thrive on challenges will succeed

While young people in some parts of the world demand more work-life balance and less pressure at work, those who are drawn to advertising understand that it can be demanding. Indeed, once they get embroiled in the business they can quickly become passionate and outspoken.

When you’re a creative, there’s the word ‘create’ in your title, which means you have to create something out of nothing… You have to be able to break through walls, put things in motion, create momentum, defend your ideas.

Bas Korsten

It tends to be a bit of baptism of fire. They get sucked in to the excitement but also the pressure of the work.

Shilpa Sinha

  • Young people demand more of their employers

Social media have given young people a good grounding in expressing themselves. They’re less daunted by hierarchy and better at speaking up about their needs and desires. This is particularly the case in France, where young talent bounces from agency to agency soaking up as much experience as possible.

The agency now has to show what it can bring to them. Their demands are large, and I would say justified. They want to be sure that any time they spend at the agency is meaningful, quality time, and that the experience will bring something to them.

Antoinette Beatson

  • The urge to make an impact outweighs “Greenwashing” fears

While young consumers care about the planet and despise “Greenwashing”, they understand that advertising is ultimately about communicating ideas – including positive ones.

They understand the power of advertising to address (social and environmental) issues. It can raise awareness and change attitudes.

Mary Hargreaves

The ability to make a real-world impact through advertising is bigger than it’s ever been…You could be helping the world get rid of food waste in the morning, then in the afternoon you could be working on cleaner energy solutions.

Bas Korsten

Advertising enables young people to amplify their voices and drive change. They see that it has a significant social power and influence – beyond just selling products.

Shilpa Sinha

  • AI will affect learning and forge new careers

AI is very quickly stepping in to take care of jobs that once enabled newcomers to advertising to learn their trade. For example, Bas Korsten of VML remembers adapting global McDonald’s commercials to the Dutch market, something an AI could do today.

So does that mean there will be too large a gap between senior creatives, who’ve learned the way I did, and younger people who’ve missed that step?...I think we need to get to a situation where young people are taken under the wing of a more seasoned creative to learn the trade.

Bas Korsten

At the same time, AI is the new digital revolution. It’s being embraced at every level of the industry.

If (young people) come in to the industry now, they will have the same huge advantage of being “AI native” as the “digital native” generation had before them.

Antoinette Beatson


Antoinette Beatson
Bas Korsten
Mary Hargreaves
Shilpa Sinha