Google is funding a UK-based graduate scheme in collaboration with Hyper Island, the IPA and 20 agencies, in a bid to cultivate cross-media skills across the industry.

The 12-week pilot scheme, called Squared, kicks off next month and comprises 100 graduates pre-selected by a range of 20 agencies, including Aegis, Mediacom and Starcom Mediavest. The chosen graduates will receive training at Google’s London office for eight weeks, after which they will spend four weeks working within the respective agencies, where they will put into practice what they have learnt. 

A range of industry experts from agencies, consultants and brands will be brought in as mentors to provide specialist knowledge throughout the scheme across topics spanning all areas of digital, including search, social media, consumer behaviours, how to use and measure data and the ability to plan media on a platform-agnostic basis. 

They will also be given extensive grounding in how to respond to client briefs, project management and educated on the general structure of the web, along with compliance issues. Google will also ensure they are well versed on all its own products, tools and technologies and how they interface with third parties.

Once the scheme has been completed, the graduates will return to their agencies where they will be absorbed into a range of roles including search, social media, planning and communications.

Squared’s programme leader at Google Melanie Sweet (pictured) told new media age future iterations of the programme will be evolved to adapt to changes in the industry as they arise. She said graduates will be taught how to plan and measure media across channels against a commercial backdrop. 

The framework of the programme has been developed to address the changing nature of technologies and ensure skills sets match those changes, according to Sweet.

“As technology and platforms become increasingly complex and disruptive, all businesses need these skills sets to power the next phase of growth, it’s important to cultivate new mindsets,” she said.

Google’s vision is also that the graduates will ultimately form a peer-to-peer “alumni” network, in which they will continue to meet regularly following the course to share ideas.

Hyper Island co-developed the framework of the scheme with Google. Hyper Island CEO Johanna Frelin said it sees enormous demand from companies that require digital competence in their employees. “We’re in the middle of a digital evolution and we’re stepping into an era when digital knowledge will be increasingly sought after,” she said. “We want to drive that.”

She said the programme will also focus on developing graduates’ ability to work in teams and collaborate with each other – skills that are all the more vital in the digital industry, where previously siloed departments must now work collaboratively on client briefs.

Starcom Mediavest has short listed ten graduates from hundreds of applications with the view to sharing them across its business in a variety of roles following the scheme. Starcom Mediavest CEO Stewart Easterbrook (pictured) said the graduates will be integrated into a mixture of roles across the company to complement its ongoing strategy to prepare for online and offline convergence.

“This course will give exposure to some very fast-moving spaces, such as connected TVs,” he said. “TV is technically digital but does not behave digitally, but that will change with the fast-approaching era of connected TVs. These skills will help prepare for those changes.”

Leadership skills are particularly sought after, according to Easterbrook. “We need multi-faceted teams that can work across all client briefs, not in digital silos,” he said. “So some graduates may end up in planning and others in the Facebook team, or part of the search department.”

Aegis, parent company to Carat, iProspect, Vizeum and Glue Isobar, has selected 14 of its most promising graduates to the scheme. iProspect MD Ben Wood (right) welcomed the initiative, saying that equipping agencies’ young talent with an in-depth understanding of the entire digital market early on in their careers will be “incredibly valuable”.

“The impact of technology and data on media is considerable and consumers are becoming increasingly digitally minded, having planners that understand that early on will be very powerful,” he said.

Carat Digital MD Charlie McGee (right) agreed the scheme is a valuable addition to the industry as agencies continue to integrate digital into the mindsets of all employees. He added that the timing is also “vital” because the training will help improve on areas that remain challenging, such as exchange desks and real-time bidding.

“These developing technologies mean planners require very different types of academic qualities than they would have traditionally needed,” he said. “They now need to be more analytical and mathematical, for example.”

He added that Facebook and Microsoft are also equally active in working with agencies and clients for the establishment of their own graduate schemes, albeit not on the same scale as Google. “Agencies are developing much deeper partnerships with these companies – it’s no longer a master-and-servant kind of relationship, but much more collaborative.”

Meanwhile IPA president Nicola Mendelsohn described Squared as a “transformative” programme. “It will equip our graduates with the best skills and talents that the new digital technologies offer, keeping us at the forefront of innovation,” she said.

The programme, the first of its kind in the UK, begins on 12 March.


Published 7 February, 2012 by NMA Staff

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