In Cannes Keynote LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky Talks Talent Migration from Creative to Tech

In his keynote address at Cannes Lions, addressing talent trends impacting the advertising industry, LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky said that the share of creative skills within the advertising industry has decreased by 17% over the past five years.

“When we look at the skills at the heart of promise-making such as design, creative strategy, branding and art direction, we don’t see the same scale of growth,” said Rolansky.

“In fact, across all talent in the ad industry, the share of creative skills has decreased by 17% over 5 years. And when we look at the Cannes-specific data, we see a 32% decline in the share of creative skills.”

 
 

Roslansky added that it could be argued that “this is part of a normal, global-wide shift, but one thing that we should pay attention to is the net talent outflow from this industry. Overall, more people are leaving than joining.”

He specifically cited the shuffle of talent into the tech industry saying that in the last 5 years, advertising has lost 5.5% more people than it has gained. “By comparison, the tech industry over the same period has gained 23% more people than it has lost.”


Highlights from Roslansky’s keynote address

Ad industry talent migration

The “Great Reshuffle”

 
 

“What’s fascinating to look at is the fact that the Great Reshuffle has played out differently among generations. Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, were the most loyal to their roles well before COVID and straight through the pandemic and recovery. Gen X’ers followed pretty much an identical path until post-COVID, where their tendency to move ticked up a bit. Millennials follow a similar pattern, but when things started to ease in the spring of 2021, they moved at a record pace – transitions tipped past the 100% year-over-year mark.

However, this is all in contrast to what we see with Gen Z, who not only were the biggest movers during and post pandemic but were also the most active movers even before the pandemic struck.”

The exodus of creative skills – prioritizing tech skills over creative ones

“When I say “tech skills”, I mean hard skills like data analytics, SQL, and python. The share of these technical skills in this industry has increased by 47% in the past 5+ years. When we look at the universe of companies who regularly attend Cannes, we see an even bigger increase in tech skills of 67%…We can see that every industry in the world is ramping up those skills too.

“Over the last 5 years, advertising has lost 5.5% more people than it has gained. That is significant. By comparison, the tech industry over the same period has gained 23% more people than it has lost.”

“The arms race for tech talent is global. Tech capabilities have become ‘table stakes.’ Every other industry in the world is chasing the same talent. So, what happens when we look at the skills at the heart of promise-making? Skills like design, creative strategy, branding and art direction? We don’t see the same scale of growth. In fact, across all talent in the ad industry, the share of creative skills has decreased by 17% over 5 years. And when we look at the Cannes-specific data, we see a 32% decline in the share of creative skills.”

Retaining talent and inspiring the next generation

“In the ad industry in 2015, the ratio of creative roles hired to technical roles hired was 1:1. In 2021 it was 1:1.25. A net 25% increase in 5+ years. When you magnify this across thousands of roles and companies, we can see that the makeup of the industry is fundamentally changing. You could argue that this is part of a normal, global-wide shift. But one thing that we should pay attention to is the net talent outflow from this industry. Overall, more people are leaving than joining.

Over the last 5 years, Advertising has lost 5.5% more people than it has gained. That is significant. By comparison, the Tech industry over the same period has gained 23% more people than it has lost. This is an industry where the balance is shifting from promise-making and creativity, to digital transformation. That may make sense in a changing world, but I also see an industry that needs to make a much bigger promise to the next generation of talent.

“When I look at these talent flows and skills changes, there’s a very clear picture. This is an industry where the balance is shifting from promise-making and creativity, to digital transformation. That may make sense in a changing world, but I also see an industry that needs to make a much bigger promise to the next generation of talent.”

That promise has to be: Advertising is where you can have an incredible career; Advertising is where you make promises so big – that they change the world; Advertising is where you create huge economic value… I want to show you a future that uses your creativity to build the next generation of the biggest brands in the world.

People work in advertising because they want to build iconic brands. But there’s a catch – the biggest brands of today are already big and already famous. The promises they made are from 20, 30 or even 50 years ago. To make big, new promises, the kind that careers can be built on, the kind that create economic value and deliver 10X growth – not 1% efficiency gains. You will have to discover a new generation of breakthrough products that people don’t know about yet, products people don’t yet understand.”

Future ad industry growth is in B2B

“In my world, I see products all the time that could be the next generation of winners – fast-growing tech companies that are being formed at the intersection of cloud computing, data analytics and machine-learning that are re-inventing our world. These companies… quietly in the background, they are rewiring the way we live, work, shop and consume… For the advertising industry, new B2B categories, and businesses like these, are where growth is going to come from in the future.

Out of the ten most successful tech IPOs last year, all but one was a pure B2B play. Many of these companies don’t yet know that they need you. You are going to have to persuade them that you can transform what they are trying to do. But these companies could be the winners of the future. And there’s huge scope for your industry to help them to build their brands.”


Highlights transcript provided by Rice Communications.

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