Youngsters today, eh?

I had an interesting conversation last night about the different attitudes that people coming into advertising have nowadays, compared to when I (and my companion) came into the industry.

It was prompted by this blog that I’d shared on Twitter and Facebook a couple of days earlier about the lost art of creativity among advertising students. One commenter made the point that the argument was an old one – more experienced admen (and women) have always thought the youngsters didn’t have the craft skills their generation had.

And, to a certain extent, I agree. But I think it’s amplified in the current new generation. Why? Well, I think there are three key reasons.

1. “I want to be a star.”

First, a general point. In today’s throwaway, instant gratification society, there’s a generation growing up with the expectation of being able to succeed without developing a skill or the necessary experience they need for that success. And because everything’s at their fingertips, it takes even more dedication than it ever has to knuckle down and develop those skills and that experience. If you can’t Google it, many of them don’t want to know. They just want to be ‘the name’ – and some of them seem to almost believe they have a right to it. It’s an X-Factor society full of deluded people who think all you need to succeed is a ‘personality’, ‘belief’ and a heart-rending back story.

I know many young people aren’t like this, but there are far more than there have ever been who are and I think it’s had an effect.

2. Real world perspective

You often hear people complain that politicians live in their own little bubble – they study politics at Uni, then work for an MP before being selected themselves. They’ve never had a ‘proper job’.

You could say the same for many of the new generation of creatives coming into the advertising industry. They study advertising, do work experience in an agency and, if they’re lucky, get offered a job. And it means they have little or no real experience of life outside advertising.

I know a number of people my age who fell into the industry after trying a number of other careers. I, for instance, was a waiter and barman, helped run a restaurant and worked as a radio sports journalist before finally becoming a copywriter. A lot of the new generation don’t have the kind of perspective that this experience brings.

3. Let’s be social

The third, and perhaps the most important reason is that online, and particularly social media, have completely changed the rules.

In one sense, this explosion of new platforms for creative ideas should make them even more creative. But I think it can actually restrict thinking because, to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the medium becomes the message. Instead of focusing on producing a great idea, they start thinking about viral videos, gamification and making things experiential.

It’s putting the cart before the horse. And it means the crafting of ideas suffers.

Now, I’m a great admirer of a lot of the social campaigns you see today. But I often can’t help wondering if a concept couldn’t have been refined, a headline been considered more carefully, or a visual made more relevant. It seems the excitement of doing something on a new platform can get in the way of a simple, relevant, effective creative idea.

So, there you have it. Have I got a point, or is this just an old codger’s rant? I’d appreciate your comments.

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