The M Grad Project – Inside the talent war

elissa good-omozusiIn this guest post, Elissa Good-Omozusi explains why Group M decided to invest in raising the profile of media as a career option with graduates

Let’s face it. Our industry struggles to attract its fair share of talented graduates, with a career in advertising and media often overlooked in favour of the more lucrative world of high finance, management consultancy and IT.

The reality is, when it comes to selling itself to the employees and leaders of tomorrow, these industries are much more effective at luring – and retaining – new high-calibre talent. In BRW’s survey of the 50 Best Places to Work last year, 20 were IT companies.

Our industry’s ability to compete for new recruits has been hampered by our failure to educate graduates about the plethora of rewarding, challenging career opportunities available in media and advertising.

M Grad projectRather than watch other industries win the talent war, we thought it was time to do something about it, which is why GroupM welcomed the opportunity to work with Mumbrella to create the first-ever career day as part of Mumbrella360 – The M Grad Project.

Spread over the second day of the conference, The M Grad Project attracted around 100 final-year and second-year university students for a look at the world of media agencies and the endless job prospects for bright young graduates.

From the get-go, it became clear why an initiative like The M Grad Project is crucial for our industry – a number of graduates studying marketing and communications degrees told us they are often only briefly exposed to media, and usually only to be educated on the planning and buying element of the media industry.

That was a worrying discovery. It means marketing and communications students are only exposed to a small – albeit very important – part of what media agencies do, and remain unaware of the myriad other aspects of our business and the wide variety of roles and disciplines available in the media industry outside of this important area.

As the students attending The M Grad Project discovered, we now have roles that simply didn’t exist a decade ago – content creators, search specialists, social media technology whizzes and analytics and insights experts, to name but a few.

That is why GroupM, along with Maxus, MEC and Mindshare, decided to include sessions as part of the career day that focused on areas other than implementation planning and buying, and instead presented a behind-the-scenes look into the world of media ideas. It is also why we invited students from courses such as economics, accounting and science, not just the usual suspects. We wanted to open their minds to media as a career choice given the wide variety of opportunities available for the brightest and best brains that universities produce.

Given the plethora of roles we now seek to fill, we need to look beyond the traditional backgrounds of agency staff and get a broad intake at graduate level as the skillsets we’re looking for can differ – including numeracy, data and analytical skills with market intelligence.

The M Grad Project also served to reinforce the reality that the new generation of workers expect more that simply a “job” from their prospective employer. Grads want to know if a company is prepared to invest in them, if they will recognise and understand their ambitions, and support and help them to reach those ambitions.

The feedback from the students ranged from “very inspiring”, “impressed”, “exceeded expectations” to students considering a career in media rather than advertising due to the variety of roles and scope available.

Tweets included: “an amazing and inspiring day, thank you so much to those who have added to my aspirations”, and “At uni you learn that the paradigm is changing. At #TheMGradProject you know it has already changed.”

While we are only talking here about opening the minds of 100 students, we think it’s a good start. Attracting more bright young people into media will benefit the entire media industry. GroupM agencies plan to be talking to many of those 100 students about joining our team, and we’ll be inviting them into our agencies for an open day.

Career days such as The M Grad Project will hopefully entice more and more of the most capable people to join our industry and, ultimately, raise the quality of the services and work offered to clients.

  • Elissa Good-Omozusi is GroupM Chief HR and Talent Officer. Group M sponsored and generated the content of the student stream of Mumbrella360


  1. Sam
    18 Jun 12
    7:45 pm

  2. Full marks for effort, GroupM. We need to attract more bright young people into our industry. Interesting to note Mediacom wasn’t mentioned / didn’t take part. Perhaps all they want from graduates are bog standard media buyers.

  3. Adam Good
    18 Jun 12
    10:31 pm

  4. Great work sis. I know how hard you and Group M worked on this Grad program. In youth we learn, in age we understand. People rewards are headed your way.

  5. Kamal Rana
    19 Jun 12
    11:06 am

  6. This was an excellent initiative by Group M and really well organised. I was so glad to be a part of it, and it would be great if there were more events like this for all the students who couldn’t make it, to open their minds up to the world of creativity that exists within the changing media industry today. The whole day had a really positive energy about it and all the presenters were so helpful, approachable and inspiring. Looking forward to the Open Day!

  7. Logic
    19 Jun 12
    11:29 am

  8. As an ex groupm’er who experienced first hand how hard it was to get great grad talent to even consider media let alone a media agency, I think this is a really great initiative from the guys. Top work.

  9. Maree
    19 Jun 12
    11:38 am

  10. Yes, and then the media industry take all those talented inspired graduates and make them check confirms for a year.
    The media industry needs to completely rethink agency progression if they really want people with imagination and entrepreneurial spirit to stick around.
    Only 2 media lion short list spots for media agencies?
    Not surprising, we bored anyone creative out of their minds, and out of our media agencies ages ago.

  11. That guy
    19 Jun 12
    1:12 pm

  12. The graduate stream was really interesting but I still have some doubts about creativity in media agencies. The overwhelming response from media professionals at the conference was that almost everything creative was being done by creative agencies. The media side is purely a numbers game. I think I’ll avoid dooming myself to an eternity staring at excel and media research software thanks.

  13. Callan
    19 Jun 12
    1:41 pm

  14. I have only been in the industry for a relatively short period of time (5 years) but the attitude I have encountered around graduates has always astonished me. They are often underpaid (because they have to ‘earn’ a proper wage) and viewed as short-term fodder that should have to do all the base level work without any proper professional development. Until agencies take a long-term view and invest in talent from the very beginning we will continue to see some of our best and brightest poached by other industries willing to offer more and in a much faster timeframe.

  15. Glenn Turner
    20 Jun 12
    2:33 am

  16. Not an easy task to attract youngens into the Media business. Unfortunately knowledge does not a wordsmith make! The media world is more like the sports arena. If you dont have talent you loose. Grim reality but a good place to start.

  17. Goodone
    20 Jun 12
    9:32 am

  18. @Callan – You’re right on the mark I reckon