To creative alumni of the future: You’ll do alright (Part 1 of 3)
Four years ago the Ice Bucket Challenge was going viral, make-up free selfies were somehow being associated with cancer research, Serial was released and Ellen’s celebrity-packed Oscar selfie was a really big deal. It was a good time to start a content agency.
These days, it’s still a great time to be creating content, but doesn’t 2014 look wide-eyed and innocent now? Four years is not that long in the scheme of things, but when I spoke at my old uni (CSU Bathurst represent!) a few weeks ago I was struck by the opportunities that creative graduates-to-be have in front of them. The creative industries have always been tough, but despite the huge shift we’ve seen in media, advertising and communications, more opportunities are being carved out today than before.
Over the last 140 years, technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed. A great example is social media, where employees of these companies, influencers and micro-businesses rely on Facebook and Instagram for their livelihoods.
Having such saturation of content means there’s a higher expectation for brands. Global and established brands can’t be as scrappy as ‘millennial’ brands whether they’re speaking to the world, or to their employees. This where creatives can do big work for big names.
You know your audience
In January, the Road Safety Commission sponsored a post on Junkee called “Why The Hell Do Young People Still Drink And Drive?” replete with GIFs and The OC images. This is something the Commission itself would never be able to do to access a young adult audience.
That’s the funny thing about getting older: you have more disposable income, and as you earn more disposable income, you start becoming a person that brands want to speak to. The language you speak now, to your peers, is the language that brands want to tap into. The ‘right’ way to communicate is the way that people will pay attention to. Five years ago it would have been unfathomable to throw in a gif, acronym or slang into a news article. There’s room for this today.
Chello saw this ourselves when we redesigned a client’s packaging. We did it because we were the market for the drink itself – and spoke up when we didn’t love the original designs. Whether you work with an agency or publisher, your engagement with your own peers is worth more than you realise as a student.
At the same time, the lower barriers to entry make for more places to create. A specific kind of content creator is relishing this: the publisher. Glance at Buzzfeed, Junkee and Pedestrian TV. While not all of these sites are able to throw the same clout and resources behind investigative journalism, they are offering a space for writers and editors to thrive. And because these publishers are born on the internet they don’t have the overheads that come with a long legacy of maintaining an established masthead; they get to write their own rules and stay lean.
These are places that young creatives should be championing, because they’re forging a space for content creators to work.
More agencies, smaller agencies
This is purely observational (…ever heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon?) but it feels like there are more agencies out there than ever before. Need an entirely papercrafted stop-motion short-form video? There’s definitely an agency for that. (It’s called Yelldesign if you’re interested.)
Because brands don’t always need a full campaign, but more and more they need to be connected to the right influencer, have someone handle just social media, or need a single video for a one-off occasion. As channels have proliferated 'the' agency has fractured to match the specific needs of clients and to do smaller pieces of work. For a young creative this means more options for employment, but it also means more big decisions about the type of work they want to do and less obvious career trajectories.
Can smaller agencies and publishers support the careers of young creatives when there's not much of a hierarchy to climb? Or is it better for smaller businesses to only hire experienced people who can carry the weight of work? My belief is that having a small team forces your creatives to step up and push their experience out of necessity. And the time you invest in them is negligible compared to the quality of work, ideas and confidence they eventually produce.
Small agencies have this same view with their clients. We're always hungry for projects that are new, different and ambitious. There's a whole new universe of creative content, so in the battle for people's attention, does experience even matter that much?
Graduates, it's your time to shine my friends.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. The next two posts offer a few more observations about why the future's bright for creative graduates-to-be.