So after much anticipation, it turned out that I wasn't actually able to go to SXSW. Which was a bummer, and yet another reason why I'm ready for this whole economy thing to pass. The good news though, is that we happened to be heading to Austin for some research during the last couple days of the event. So while we didn't get the panel goodness, we did absorb some learning from some friends who did go, and we had a great time.
After checking into our hotel, I remarked on Twitter that everyone looked like they worked with the Interwebs, but then later I realized that they looked surprisingly similar to junior and mid-level advertising people. Except of course that they were driving Porsches and talking about running companies. And that made me sad. But then it also made me think about all of the conversation I've heard about how advertising is having trouble attracting new talent. Which is funny when you think about the way young people are treated by this business. Understanding why there is a lack of new talent isn't exactly rocket science.
Advertising simply isn't the only way to make a career being creative anymore. Creative people can now just start their own business, call all of the shots, make all of the money, and have a good time building a completely original brand (yep, I said brand.) Whereas the advertising experience is typically something along the lines of paying your own way to go to New York to interview, being offered $30k to work in Manhattan, and then being reminded about how lucky you are, every day, for being allowed The Honour of working 80-hours a week for someone who got rich for knowing how to tell dick jokes in-between TV shows. I've been very lucky to have avoided most of that, having worked for some of the most incredible people in the business, in both talent and in graciousness, but I've heard some terrible stories from friends that I've made along the way. And it makes me think that agencies are broken in a more fundamental way than most people like to talk about.
The agency world is still operating under the assumption that they are the one place to go for creative folks. And while it still is high on the list of a lot of people, myself included, it doesn't seem like the business is doing a very good job of bringing in the kinds of people who know how to be what marketing needs to become as we hurtle into a strange and uncertain future. Some agencies are attempting to, but often it seems like more often than not they are just bringing in weirdos for the sake and novelty of it rather than bringing in people who actually know how to do stuff. But I'm starting to get the feeling that the people who know how to do this stuff aren't there for the easy taking, as they've all chosen a more appealing route. Working for themselves. Living the life of an entrepreneur rather than an employee. Working 18-hours a day for themselves rather than someone else.
Advertising is having trouble attracting new talent because it's not trying to attract new talent. The business is still counting on a fading mystique to lure people who love it into working in it. And while all of this might be over-generalized, I am more and more convinced that until the industry addresses this problem in a real way, it doesn't matter how much change they talk about, agencies will continue to slide into mediocrity and lose relevance with clients.