I enjoyed this article A Level results 2015: A lesson in why they aren't crucial for career success by Dave Trott in City AM yesterday. I'm glad he wrote it, the gist of it is encouraging people to realise that they can be successful without formal qualifications. A good sentiment, and true obviously.
In the article he talks about how some of advertising's most successful and respected figures worked their way up from the bottom with hard work and smartness. They all started out in the mailrooms of agencies.
The list of ad people who started out in the mail room include the following: Charles Saatchi, Peter Mead, Sir Frank Lowe and Lord Tim Bell. Amazing huh?
But there's a problem isn't there? Mailrooms in agencies have all but died out. We don't have one here. We've never had one, but then again we're a tiny company, which is a rarity in the business. But mail rooms are even dying out in the big and very big agencies.
So what happens next? Imagine advertising without all the people who worked their way up from the bottom. This is the problem that the business faces at the moment. There are precious few ways for industrious, inquisitive, smart and hard-working people who left school at 16 to work their way into the business.
And Jesus, the business needs them now more than ever. It's swamped with nice middle-class university educated people. And there's nothing wrong with them individually. But there is a problem with them as a whole. Advertising has become too nice and too middle-class, too polite and too intellectual.
The industry needs to be challenged. We need more variety of people, more trouble-makers, more people who aren't afraid to speak up, more people who don't treat the job like the civil-service or an intellectual exercise. More people who don't think of selling products as something beneath their delicate university-educated sensibilities.
How are we going to help these young people help us? The great thing about the mail room is that it wasn't a 'scheme'. It required people to find the job, be inquisitive and work their way up. Some people who worked in the mail room never worked their way up. And that's fine. It's the opportunity to do it that's important.
But a 'scheme' works differently. When agencies have schemes, they tend to be a lot more selective about who gets on it. The mail room was more self-selecting. Once you start being more selective, you are possibly refining out the potential for surprising people, people who you might not expect, to get in and rise up.
And schemes train people, and coach people. Now, one of my great bugbears of advertising is that so few people in the business are trained in the basics. But, schemes work differently. They train people how to behave and think like the people training them. And to be honest, that's the last thing we want. We want these kids because they won't do that.
How are we going to do it? Maybe we need to think about what the modern version of the mail room is? Maybe we should just bring back mail rooms anyway. Even if we don't really need them for mail. We definitely need them.
If you're a smart, hard-working person who is inquisitive. If you aren't scared to have an opinion, aren't worried about challenging authority, regardless of what exam results you may or may not have, however old or young you are, the advertising business needs you.
Please find a way into it.
Have a great Friday.