Shilpa Sinha, McCann: “The industry is attractive because it openly welcomes people from diverse backgrounds”

Advertising and Education: The Meeting Point (Part 4)

da Mark Tungate , Adforum

In a series of interviews in partnership with the IAA France, we discuss the perception of advertising among young people, and find out what efforts are being made to attract young talent to the industry. In the last of our four articles, we hear from Shilpa Sinha, Chief Strategy Officer APAC, McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific. 

 

 

It’s impossible to generalize about a region as vast as Asia, but young people there do seem to have certain attitudes to advertising in common. While they still think of it as glamorous career, they also see it as daunting and competitive.

Shilpa Sinha of McCann Worldgroup explains: “Based on the conversations I’ve had with young people, I’d say that their attitude to the industry is a paragon of paradoxes. They consider it cool, but challenging. It’s inspiring, but also intimidating. It’s exciting, but very exacting.”

There’s a tension, she explains, between the aspirational aspect of the industry and the factors that make it a demanding environment. “They feel you have to be exceptionally talented because it’s driven by fame. You have to shine.”

There’s clearly a sense that it’s a prestigious job. In India, for example, young people see the industry as a potential stepping stone to even greater success. A strategist might picture themselves as a future marketing consultant, while a creative might have an eye on Bollywood. Some young people in the region have concerns about work-life balance, but others consider long hours one of the hazards of working in a dynamic industry.

“Overall, I think the industry is attractive because it welcomes people from diverse backgrounds. It’s more tolerant, and it’s all about encouraging individuality. If you’re creative it’s a place where you can hone your passions. It’s the destination if you want to have an impact on shaping culture, influencing behaviour change, starting conversations around social issues, or unleashing new trends.”

All highly appealing elements. “One thing there’s universal agreement on is that there’s always something interesting happening in advertising.”

 

Interaction with industry leaders

 

She adds that advertising has retained its appeal because it now offers a broader variety of disciplines. “There are agencies that specialise in social media, and there are influencer agencies. We’re also witnessing a big ‘indie’ agency movement across the region. In China, for example, young people are very attracted to indie agencies because they feel the environment will be more fast-moving, less bureaucratic, and that they’ll be encouraged to be hands on.”

Young talent is certainly not being left by the wayside: Shilpa says there’s “a plethora” of different outreach and mentoring programs designed to lure the next generation into advertising.

To give a couple of examples, McCann in Singapore has Pathfinders, which includes career talks and an office tour, with students actively encouraged to ask questions. In Thailand there is the Seed University, a mixture of on-the-job training and education. McCann’s parent company Interpublic has IPG Accelerate, a three-month internship programme allowing participants to work in a variety of different roles, including media and PR.

In Japan, where there’s more cynicism about the industry among young people, the Japanese Advertising Agencies Association runs an annual campaign to change their minds. “It’s created by a different member agency every year, and this year McCann is doing the campaign,” Shilpa says.

Festivals can be leveraged to reach out to talent, too. At AdFest in Thailand, the network organised a “Shape Your Portfolio” workshop, where industry leaders showed young creatives how to better organise and showcase their work.

 

A joint stake in nurturing talent

 

What’s the profile of the people Shilpa sees coming into the advertising world? “As I said earlier, diversity is the mainstay of our industry, so while we do have people from advertising schools, or art and design backgrounds, they may also come from business schools. As a strategist I’m always looking for people who are different. We have a very bright young planner in Japan who is a lawyer by training. I also have planners with backgrounds in psychology or English literature.”

She admits that young talent in the region could sometimes use more emotional support. “It tends to be a bit of baptism of fire. They get sucked in to the excitement but also the pressure of the work.”

She also feels that many people who start working in advertising don’t have an overall picture of the industry. “When I talk to them, I have the impression that guest lectures and even internship programmes aren’t designed to give them proper cross-functional exposure. They may learn how the creative department works, but they might not understand what account managers and strategists do. And they rarely have any contact with clients.”

There’s a need to give young talent a more exhaustive picture. “I think if clients could partner with us in designing programmes that give young people a fuller understanding of the business, newcomers to the industry would feel far more confident. Clients and ourselves have a joint stake in raising the talent capabilities of our industry.”

As in other markets, views on sustainability and climate change have impacted perceptions of advertising. “Idealism is the mainstay of Gen Next…As a generation that values authenticity, there is growing scepticism about Greenwashing.”

Some young people actively state that they won’t work on certain categories, like fast fashion. “The silver lining is that the industry is also a powerful tool for activism. Advertising enables young people to amplify their voices and drive change. They see that it has a significant social power and influence – beyond just selling products.”

 

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