Why agencies need to rethink the question of talent
In this guest post, Ash Farr, CEO of McCann Australia, argues that adland needs to attract coders and computer science graduates – and industry courses such as AWARD School need to be radically revamped.
The increasing complexity of our industry means agencies need more top-level marketing experts than ever before. Where traditionally we focused on hiring and rewarding process people, we must now approach the critical question of talent from an entirely different perspective.
The role of agencies moved beyond traditional “ads” a long time ago. The right solution for our clients today can vary from product development to apps, from packaging to multiplatform ideas, branded utilities that provide a consumer benefit and anything in between.
In its 101-year history, McCann has always been guided by the principle of Truth Well Told. To be able to tell the truth effectively in this brave new world of advertising requires different skills from the now glaringly antiquated writer-art director dichotomy.
To be successful and to cut through in an environment where the traditional ‘push’ model of advertising is broken, we must create campaigns, platforms and content that consumers will actively seek out and engage with.
That calls for a marriage of science, technology and storytelling. As creative agencies, our core strength has always been storytelling. Technology, not so much.
So how do we address the skills gap and create an entirely new pool of talent from which to draw?
We have to start by looking beyond our own industry to the fields of computer science and coding to find the next generation of advertising industry leaders – particularly as we struggle to convince clients to reward us for the intellectual property we provide to their business.
This goal would be much more achievable when we have more people dedicated to the creation of IP rather than simply the creation of ads.
Today, technology is intimately entwined with the creative process and therefore to truly become a creative company we must be hard-wired into coding. In our hyper-digital world, where everything we do is now embedded in digital, coding is where we encounter the greatest expression of creativity.
Among graduates from computer science degrees who possess strong coding skills, we are more likely to find well-rounded individuals who have the right technical training to create the software needed for today’s sophisticated digital campaigns. Teaching them the principles of great storytelling will not be a colossal stretch.
However, as employers, we also need to lift our game. Once we attract this new breed of advertising superstars, we need to ensure our internal culture is as appealing and inspiring as the Googles and Facebooks of this world, which would perhaps be the first choice of employer for computer science graduates and coders.
In account service, agencies need to be hiring all-rounders who are marketing experts and able to work consultatively with clients to drive their business. In the past, star account directors were merely required to be fantastic at execution, but in today’s complex marketing landscape, that is no longer enough.
This is where the inadequacy of current marketing and advertising degrees becomes painfully evident. Is AWARD School really pushing the boundaries of creativity?
Can it, when what is required of an agency creative has changed so dramatically in the past few years? Are our university marketing degrees really preparing graduates for success? They are so general to the point of having minimal application.
What we need is up-to-date industry courses that breed a generation of industry leaders who are prepared for the challenges that face us now and in the future. And those courses should be accredited, in the same way courses by the Charter Institute of Marketing in the UK are – setting a clear, credible standard.
We all have some work to do.