We must put rivalry aside to grow the talent pool on which our industry relies

It's a small world, advertising. Barely a week goes by without bumping into someone you last saw in a trading estate reception or on a sweaty university dance floor. We're a tight social group, which can be fun. However, it's also testament to the narrowness and homogeneity of the industry as a whole.

We all devote a huge amount of management effort to making ourselves alluring to the same finite pool of talent. It has helped to accelerate the improvement of the working environment, and it was great to see four media agencies (Carat, PHD, MEC and Starcom MediaVest Group) in The Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies in 2014.

But when it comes to growing the pool, the industry’s record isn’t so good. Media skills are more in demand than ever across all industries, but the talent pool is simply too small. We need to address the long-term thirst for talent in the industry, but the short term grabs all of our attention.

The feedback from the kids has been incredible, going from total confusion to articulate spokespeople in hours

Success stories such as manufacture or plumbing grew their talent pool from new generations, new backgrounds and new markets. Our industry needs to ignite a passion for our business in the next generation, as we are currently pretty low down the pecking order. And we need some sustained efforts to engage those ethnic and economic groups that are dramatically under-represented in the business.

This is why we have recently created the Discover Media programme, in which we bring GCSE students to the agency to give them a taste of the media business. With support from Adidas, Twitter and Google, we aimed to inform, entertain and challenge them and then give work experience to those who want the opportunity. The feedback from the kids has been incredible, going from total confusion to articulate spokespeople in a few hours. And the experience of welcoming them has been fun and motivating for our own people too.

For us, this is a tiny first step, but we are much more likely to make a sustainable impact on the problem as a collective. We are a hyper-competitive business with a poor track record of collective action but, after the talent session at Media360, several clients, agencies and media owners raised their hands to get involved.

It would be great to sustain this momentum and collaborate to grow the talent pool on which all our businesses depend.

Matthew Hook is the managing director at Carat UK

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