“I feel like agencies are getting left behind by that stew of new media.” So says David Mayo, CEO of Bates CHI & Partners, in a Spikes Asia session dedicated to the theme of advertising’s future. Mayo was joined by a panel of up-and-comers from Bates CHI & Partners’ Asia-Pacific network to discuss how agencies need to change if they are going to thrive in the new digital age.
Mayo speaks about developing new, raw talent, but many of the panelists disagree with the notion of agencies bringing in young candidates, only to then reshape them in their own image. “I didn’t join advertising to be coddled or mentored,” says Beau Encarnacion from Indonesia. “I wanted to be in a position to create things, to take my crazy, insane ideas from farm to table. And I don’t speak just for myself, but for many young punks like myself.”
While in the past, advertising may have been an industry that people simply fell into (as evidenced by BBDO President Andrew Robertson’s own story at the Campaign panel), these days it’s a very different story. In Singapore, advertising and media is the third most sought-after career path for graduates, after the financially motivated sectors of banking and accountancy.
“Adland is actually sitting on a very, very good problem right now,” says Encarnacion. “The industry itself is swimming with so much talent to help them get to the next level, shake up the work and take it to a whole new game.” But he believes that the advertising industry as a whole is guilty of squandering this well of new talent, by forcing them to work within the confines of conventional agency models. Or as he puts it: “It’s like an ageing rock band that gets new band members to only play their greatest hits.”
There are three simple ways we can do to right now to start tapping this new resource, says Encarnacion, starting with reverse mentoring. Knowledge-sharing can go both ways, whether it’s millennials giving baby boomers “Snapchat 101”, or schooling agency-wide teams in current trends and subcultures.
Encarnacion’s second tip is to support young employees’ creative pursuits and incentivise passion projects outside of the workplace, essentially cultivating an in-house team of makers. And finally, he is adamant that young talent should be made a part of the hiring process. “Interpersonal chemistry is as important as technical skills,” he says, “so let these people have a say in who they work with.”
Meanwhile, Shafira Sahara, also from Indonesia, asserts that “we need to see creativity for what it is; it’s such a huge term.” She believes that creativity is not just about content and campaigns, but also about delivering value to clients in other ways. “We should be able to find creativity in good strategy, solutions to everyday business problems, and even in dealing with small budgets… Because what’s important is where the value is.”
What each of these young future leaders seems to have in common is their conviction that even when discussing modern technology, brands and agencies still have an old world way of thinking.
“The worst brief we can possibly get from our clients these days is ‘make us trend,’” says Duong Tran from Vietnam. “Nobody wakes up thinking the world needs to see another app.” A subtler approach is required for the digital generation. “Creativity is changing,” he says, “it’s no longer about the hard sell, it’s about intelligent, persuasive tactics.” Mayo ultimately agrees that perhaps agency creativity should be “more like the CIA”, and felt by consumers rather than just seen or heard.