"Meet Jason. He's an art director/filmmaker/editor/web designer. Or say hello to Sarah. She's a writer/art director/journalist/photographer. Over there's Ayusha. She's a planner/art director.
They're all recent students of mine, and they represent a new kind of graduate emerging from advertising programs at colleges and universities across the country.
Talk to the professors at Boston University, U. of Oregon, SCAD, VCU Brand Center and elsewhere, and they'll tell you that this next generation of advertising creatives have both the desire and the skills to play in multiple sandboxes—with no interest in being confined to just one.
"They don't see the world through siloed job descriptions," says Professor Deborah Morrision, director of advertising at University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication. "They speak multiple languages and often fluently."
A few agencies are starting to see the opportunities in hiring these young, diverse, label-resistant makers. One of them, Havas, has even committed to launching a new initiative called N8tive, a small incubator of recent grads who'll be free from the hierarchies, obstacles and job descriptions that many agencies impose on untested creatives. Instead the N8tives will report directly to GCD Paul Vinod and CCO Toygar Bazarkaya, who conceived the idea. They'll get access to the best briefs and an invitation to use their manifold skills to invent solutions.
"Kids come out of college today with a fiery creative spirit and a desire to create all the time," says Vinod. "They are hybrids. Defining them would be putting them in a straitjacket."
Other progressive agencies also claim to embrace the idea of hybrids and misfits. But for many it's still business as usual. Teams may collectively have a broad set of skills but individuals still have to fit the old job descriptions.
The reason why agencies have openings for writers, studio artists, or developers but not for a combination of two or three of those roles is relatively easy to understand. It's called the staffing plan, which emanates from a client's scope of work and the agency's compensation. Inevitably, that plan results in a specific number of FTEs (full time employees) that reflect the same old positions that agencies have always used. There may be 1.5 copywriters or 2.5 art directors in a plan. But there's most certainly not .75 developer/photographer/editor.
For the next generation of creatives, being a copywriter who plays music on the side or an art director who paints on weekends may not be satisfying enough. Many of the new emerging creatives aren't dilettantes. They bring skills, and aspire to creative roles, that are broader than the job descriptions into which our industry slots them.
This presents a problem if the ad industry wants to attract the best creative talent entering the workforce. But it also affords an opportunity to make our industry more appealing to new creatives who now get offers from Google, Facebook and talent-hungry startups...."