A few weeks ago, Adobe and the D&AD organized a roundtable called The Future Digerati, bringing together creative directors from top interactive design agencies with University tutors running courses in this area. The idea was to discuss the current crop of students, so the agencies could let the tutors know if there were any skills lacking in the graduates that they were producing, and the tutors could let the agencies know how best to tap graduate talent.

One of the points to come out of the discussion was that the shortfall in the ‘digital’ industry wasn’t in high-quality graduates or junior talent – there is a dearth of middleweight and senior people. This point was raised by Simon Gill, creative director of LBi in London, one of the largest agencies in the UK with over 400 employees and clients including Marks & Spencer, Lloyds TSB and BT Business. We sat down with him to find out more – and how agencies can develop talent to fill these roles.

Watch a video of highlights from the Future Digerati roundtable on our new Vimeo channel.

Gill believes that one of the roots of the lack of senior talent is the fallout from the ‘dot-com’ crash in the early part of this decade – when mass redundancies from interactive houses pushed creatives into other areas, from which they haven’t returned.

“Yes, it helped get rid of the get-rich-quick merchants,” he says, “leaving only those that really loved digital and were good at it, but it means there are limited numbers to go around now.”

A digital island

Another cause has been the past separation of ‘digital’ from other forms of marketing and advertising – which has often seen it pushed into isolated areas including detached departments, or even to other companies.

“Many senior experts are pure digital people and although they have brilliant experience they often lack the wider skills,” says Gill. “These skills now need to include solid experience of more traditional media in order to objectively get a balanced and blended approach for a world where the on- and offline boundary is no more.”

However, Gill says that where the biggest lack of available talent is in middleweight roles – which he defines as creatives who “would have been the graduates in 2002/2003”. These people are often used to produce materials conceived by others, so are missing out on developing their own ideas and learning how to generate better ideas.

Gill believes that behind the lack of development are a number of factors – including “a lack of courage, expectation or appetite for new joined-up communications” for clients, and senior personnel’s lack of experience of the wider creative industries that they can pass on.

Juniors are lacking a different set of skills, says Gill.

“I think the juniors we are now seeing are digital natives – so have a good grasp of how digital unites to the real world, “ he says. “They rightly see it as the connected world and recognise the multitude of opportunities it presents. What they need is further tutoring in the crafts of communication and design, so they gain an appreciation of what it takes to make things and why things are done the way they’re done.”