LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky Discusses Talent Shifts in the Ad Industry in Cannes Keynote

The professional network backed the creation of the first ever Creative B2B Lions

LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky sees a fork in the road when he looks at the future of the ad industryLinkedIn

LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky said during his keynote address on the main stage at Cannes Lions Tuesday that the professional network backed the creation of the first ever Creative B2B Lions, which will be awarded Thursday.

“The advertising industry is in the promise-making business,” Roslansky said, going back to 1773 to surface the example of engineer James Watt using the concept of horsepower to sell mine owners on his new steam-powered engine, and then returning to more modern times by adding, “The MP3 player had been around for a decade before the iPod. It was not new technology. But ‘1,000 songs in your pocket’ was the promise everyone understood … Innovation and promise-making are a powerful combination.”

He addressed the talent migration taking place in the ad industry, noting that the “Great Reshuffle” has played out differently among generations: Baby boomers have been the most loyal to their roles, before and during the pandemic, while Generation X drifted away from that path as Covid restrictions were eased, and millennials did the same “at record pace.”

However, Generation Z were the most active movers pre-pandemic, as well as the biggest movers in its early and later stages, with Roslansky explaining, “This generation believes it’s not only OK to move around frequently, but it’s expected, and potentially have a side gig or two along the way. Motivating and inspiring this generation is going to be critical to the future of the ad industry.”

He turned his attention to technical skills and creative skills, noting, “When we look at the universe of companies who regularly attend Cannes, we see an even bigger increase in tech skills of 67% (over the past five years). That’s a pretty massive leap over a short period of time. But, here’s what’s important to understand: We can see that every industry in the world is ramping up those skills, too. The arms race for tech talent is global. Tech capabilities have become ‘table stakes.’ Every other industry in the world is chasing the same talent.”

For advertising specifically, Roslansky noted that over the same five-year period he mentioned earlier, the share of creative skills such as art direction, branding, creative strategy and design is down 17%, with that figure rising to 32% for Cannes-specific data, saying, “Clearly, there has been a big shift in what matters to this industry.”

Roslansky also highlighted a net 25% increase in the ratio of creative roles hired to technical roles hired over a five-year period, from one-to-one in 2015 to one-to-1.25 in 2021, adding, “One thing that we should pay attention to is the net talent outflow from this industry. Overall, more people are leaving than joining. Over the past five years, advertising has lost 5.5% more people than it has gained. That is significant. By comparison, the Tech industry over the same period has gained 23% more people than it has lost.”

He continued, “When I look at these talent flows and skills changes, there’s a very clear picture. This is an industry where the balance is shifting from promise-making and creativity to digital transformation. That may make sense in a changing world, but I also see an industry that needs to make a much bigger promise to the next generation of talent. That promise has to be: Advertising is where you can have an incredible career; advertising is where you make promises so big that they change the world; advertising is where you create huge economic value.”

Roslansky called for a return to what had been the ad industry’s core competitive advantage, promise making, saying, “The biggest brands of today are already big and already famous. The promises they made are from 20, 30 or even 50 years ago. To make big, new promises—the kind that careers can be built on, the kind that create economic value and deliver 10 times growth, not 1% efficiency gains—you will have to discover a new generation of breakthrough products that people don’t know about yet, products people don’t yet understand. And use your legendary skill to make them into incredibly famous brands.”

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He shifted to business-to-business advertising, using ServiceNow as an example and saying, “It does a lot of office workflow processing stuff so that we don’t have to. It’s the 21st century workplace equivalent of the fridge or washing machine. It takes hours of drudgework out of professional processes and gives us a bit of our life back. Maybe you don’t know ServiceNow, but maybe you should, because its market capitalization is bigger than Ford and Ferrari combined. Just think about that—it’s bigger than Ford and Ferrari put together. And it is just one of a bunch of B2B businesses that have established themselves as leaders of emerging new categories. None of these businesses are household names.”

Roslansky noted that the business categories of cloud, financial technology, hardware and process automation have a market cap that is greater than Adidas, Coca-Cola, GM and Nike combined, pointing to those categories as a source of growth for the future and adding, “Many of these companies don’t yet know that they need you. You are going to have to persuade them that you can transform what they are trying to do. But these companies could be the winners of the future. And there’s huge scope for your industry to help them to build their brands.”

That brought him to his conclusion and the details on the new award, as he said, “That’s why LinkedIn has supported the creation of the first ever Creative B2B Lions, which will be awarded on Thursday … Five years from now, I hope every creative director here wants to bring their best ideas and begs to be on the cloud or workflow or fintech account, and that many more awards are devoted to categories that recognize change. Looking at the future of the advertising industry, I believe there is a fork in the road. One path is the current track: getting deeper into a techification arms race and accepting that creative skills gradually become less prominent, but the other path leads to a new era of ‘creatification,’ where you use promise-making to help emerging technology explain its story to the world.”

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