The Next Generation Will Save Our Industry—So Why Aren’t We Supporting Them?

The U.K. government has recognized the contribution of the creative sector but isn't backing it with funding


There have been a lot of discussions here in the U.K. about young talent over the last few weeks, from agencies taking on Kickstart cohorts to the sad news that Watford’s creative school has closed (and the relief that its brilliant head, Tony Cullingham, is heading to BBH and can continue his magic).

Also, we’ve had two political party conferences where education was a topic of conversation, but only one party specifically spoke about the value of creative education and reinstating some of the awful cuts to arts subjects that have plagued our schools and universities. The other spoke about our economic success off the back of unleashing the “unique spirit” of the British people without a mention of support for its creative lifeblood.

Regardless of your political persuasion, these things matter and supporting the next generation of young talent matters greatly. Not just within our businesses but in culture.

According to official DCMS Economic estimates, advertising and marketing generated gross value added of  17.1 billion pounds in 2019 ($23.5 billion), and there were 190,000 people employed in UK advertising and marketing in 2019.  In Feb 2020, the U.K.’s creative industries contributed almost 13 million pounds ($17.8 million) to the UK economy every hour.

New statistics reveal the Creative Industries sector is growing more than five times faster than the national economy. We’re the fourth-biggest advertising market in the world. According to PWC in 2017, 77% of global CEOs look for creativity and innovation as essential skills for staff and around the same amount say it’s hard to find. Those numbers keep growing.  

So why aren’t we being taken seriously?

Why are we no longer supporting drama, art and music in our schools and proposing capping university fees for STEM courses while letting creative courses inflate despite the good work of organizations like the IPA? I say that as someone who loves STEM too, and feels like it’s a false economy to pit them against each other. Why do we as an industry fail to support our last portfolio school, SCA 2.0, where more than half the students this year are on scholarship or still insist in some corners on minimum conditions for our grads? 

Why do D&AD Shift and Brixton Finishing School still have come begging to the industry it feeds with incredible talent? We should have room for all the agency programmes and all the independent schools out there. If we’re to thrive and lead ‘the great reset,’ we need to do even more than what we’re all currently investing. 

If our industry was in the capable hands of the best young talent out there, we would not have anything to worry about.

Laura Jordan Bambach, president and CCO of Grey U.K.

We need well-rounded young people to feed our beloved industries as well as others. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted young jobseekers more than any other group and, if you’re Black, the youth unemployment rate is 40%. That has led to a team of passionate people launching OKO this month, with a mission to provide a mentor for every young person in the U.K. by connecting them with staff in progressive businesses.

Work from the next generation of creatives

In recognition of that, here are few pieces of incredible work by young creatives that are changing our industry for the better and making a difference in the world. Let’s celebrate our much-needed creative education and the richness of all the programmes and schools that the progressive parts of the industry are building and supporting.

This brilliant new generation of young creatives includes Jess Kielstra and Nina Forbes, whose The Gender Agenda experiment demonstrated the shocking levels of unconscious bias in the advertising business. For this project, they assumed online identities as men and women to see if the book crit offers they received for their work would change on the basis of gender. When they emailed their portfolios out using adopted male names they got seven offers, while for the same work as women they got just two.

Quynh Tran and Toan Mai are also making waves in adland. They got the organizers of Cannes Lions to offer free access to its website section displaying creative campaigns to ad professionals under the age of 30 after launching an alternative site linking through to all the winning work in protest.

Also making a positive difference are Orla O’Connor and Daisy Bard, a creative team at Grey. Their innovative “#stopcyberflashing” campaign for Brook, a sexual health and wellbeing charity for young people, is helping to drive the movement to make cyberflashing, an online form of sexual harassment, illegal and to support a bill for reform.

Creative duo Seine Kongruangkit and Matithorn Prachuabmoh Chaimoungkalo (aka Brave) produced work that not only aimed to save lives but raise a smile during the pandemic. While stay-at-home orders were in place last year, they created Netflix billboards showing spoilers for the most popular shows to stop people going out.

Brave

Other game changers include designer Camille Walala, whose installation to reopen the Design Museum’s shop saw the shop’s shelves stocked with essential goods packaged in artworks created by emerging artists—the message being that creativity is essential and should be accessible to everyone.

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The Design Museum shop website.The Design Museum

And that’s just touching the surface. As an agency founder, I see the benefits that young creative talent brings to the business in terms of client growth. With my creative hat on, fresh talent brings fresh ideas that clients so desperately need. As CCO it’s my job to elevate that energy and shape it for clients, and to help grow the next generation of award-winning creative leaders.  

If our industry was in the capable hands of the best young talent out there, we would not have anything to worry about. Depressingly—in many ways—the training, support and access to this industry is as elusive for the next generation as it’s ever been.  

The success of our industry doesn’t just rest on the shoulders of us old folk in positions of influence and experience, but also on the depth and energy of the talent we invest in. I’d ask you all to be generous with your support and your feedback to build the industry we’ll become and make it one we’re proud of.