Content Strategist Vince Usher wields the knife on whether educators and the industry are preparing young people for the expanding expertise required for the ever changing landscape.
The young will eat the old, this is an inevitability. There's an admirable chase, a bit of a fight, but sheer numbers eventually overwhelm, and in the end nothing is left but the skeleton.
Why the bleak outlook? Well, I'm privileged enough to be someone who sits in the middle of an extremely complex shift. I'm not talking about the technological shift we're undertaking as an industry, but a massive shift in the advertising pedagogy.
So what has changed since I last stepped into a Uni lecture theatre?
Having undertaken two consecutive slogs of Bachelor level training, and now four years out and seeing my peers and more recent graduates come through the ranks, I’ve observed that advertising degrees are, quite simply, less creative.
When I was performing study it was requisite to have an intimate knowledge of the power of an idea. It was proffered by lecturers that a print ad, written in the right way, could drive someone right down the funnel and into the store. Simple.
But, only four years on, graduates are a different make-up.
The importance of being persuasive, developing 'ideas' with cohesion and eloquence has become somewhat of an 'artisan' skill, left to institutions like 'Miami Ad School' and 'Award School'.
Instead, the Universities are focused on covering the fundamental theorem of the day, espousing the values of science, research, and hard wiring process driven methodological thinking. Now they’re also working with the MFA, taking the extra step in the direction of digital literacy.
It's fair enough. The average industry professional and or marketing manager can't afford to be so limited.
I personally had to jerry rig an education in buying and developing Display, SEM, Video and Social through countless youtube tutorials, and MOOCS post my degree, where today's students get it bolted on to their course units.
Because, thinking about content or data isn't the same as thinking about advertising. A marketer today has to think about how they'll attract an audience, nurture, manipulate and cultivate them like a garden. A young digital native practitioner has this in their very nature.
I laughed and felt an intense irony when juniors in our team were made to take the MFA Paid digital foundations test. It's no wonder that being recent Uni graduates, most of them smashed it. I'm curious though, given the same test what the results our elderly industry states-people would garner?
As is generally accepted, interrupting someone's dinner in front of the TV with a 30second TVC isn’t going to do the trick any more. Today they should be chomping down their lean cuisine around lean cuisines' television content. SVOD, Ad Blockers, Ad Free TV, this is the future that academics herald, and so their courses naturally reflect this.
Brand architectures, developing episodic content series, association with publishers, working with influencers, building products, manipulating the media, dealing with crises, analysing data, developing an understanding of programming languages and information technology, fostering communities of real live people, programming games and, you get the drift... is now what's required of the modern day marketing student.
Is it too late for the top tier to fundamentally build this skill base? While I'm sure their degrees - underpinned by theories of sociology, psychology, cultural anthropology, and even philosophy - were incredibly interesting, their general reluctance to completely immerse themselves from the universe of online culture, and lack of deep digital knowledge, has left the young to pick up the digital slack.
So where do we go from here? While this might have seemed like a sneaky jab, really it’s just a wakeup call. More than ever there is an opportunity to work together, and to make massive strides from learning each-others’ perspectives. It’s time to step down from the high horse, and to realise that both generations have massive, but opposite gaps in their knowledge. Start taking the young a little more seriously, strip back the barriers, and open up the dialogue. Do this, and they might be kind enough to hold back the knife a little longer.
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