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Advertising & Society Review
Volume 10, Issue 1

Talent Shift: A New Generation of Professionals Means a New Profession in the Making
By Deborah Morrison

In cranky economic times, we seem to pay closer attention to strengths and opportunities alive in our professions, as if that hopeful counting of resources will guide us to our next successful chapter. For the advertising and brand development world, a substantial shift in opportunity is now taking place, one that speaks to the essential character of our profession and what it will become in the next few years. The latest generation to enter advertising—Millennials or Nextgen or 21st century 20-somethings—embody that shift in how they think and how they live. They’re teched-up, smart, productive, savvy; but those descriptors are too breezy to give full measure.

Instead, let me make a bolder statement: This generation of talent delivers us from the evil of how it’s always been done, and by doing so, changes the nature of the industry.

My perspective on this comes from teaching and consulting in the talent development ranks of advertising’s major universities and agencies for twenty years. Trends are notable: the conservative 1980s made for watered down approaches from young professionals and safety-net thinking for a decade. The 1990s tech boom gave us some new tools as young people led the way in experimenting happily, but the experimenters always felt like anomalies rather than the norm for a creative industry. Certainly, each year, each cohort brings with them a certain enthusiasm for the professional world, a way to tap into the business as usual.

But a short time ago, say in 2005 or so, the shift occurred. Students began inventing new approaches to brand storytelling, pushing back on the conventional wisdom of job seeking, inventing different titles and approaches to work well done. This, of course, did not happen just in one school or region, nor did it occur in a vacuum; the tsunami of organizational and technological changes in the agency world over the last decade—especially at the most successful creative agencies—gave us new positions, new technologies, new specialists and professional interface. Cultural trends also push thinking: authenticity and transparency in business, green culture and economy, global relationships. Obviously, this generation of advertising and brand development students is reacting to the energy world around them.

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