Members’ Meeting in Paris | Summary

On 15 & 16 May, edcom members met at Sup de Pub in Paris for the annual Spring meeting to discuss the industry’s burning topics, share what’s happening at their home universities, network and exchange ideas.

Day 1

In the Spotlight: Gen Z & Well-being

The first day of the conference focused on the well-being of Gen Z and young professionals and the future of ChatGPT and AI. Our colleague Joke Hautekiet, from Howest University, Belgium, started the day with her Gen Z: the Stressed Generation presentation. Generation Z, or Gen Z, is the cohort of individuals born between 1997 and 2012, making them the youngest generation currently entering the workforce and shaping the future. As digital natives, they have grown up with technology, social media, and instant gratification. However, this has also increased mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

Joke Hautekiet, Howest University

Her intervention focused on getting to know this much-talked generation: improving our understanding of Gen Z, considering the society they are born in, and grasping their main concerns and stressors.  Among other things, Joke highlighted the uniqueness of Gen Z; they are more connected and aware of social, economic, and environmental issues than all the previous generations. These variables, coupled with the increased time spent on social media, have Important implications: Gen Zs are more prone to anxiety in general and have been badly affected by the pandemic, so we can expect this tension to resonate in online interactions.

During the Q&A session, Joke explained how her team tried to define a Gen Z persona to sketch an image of the whole generation to enable organisations to tailor their campaigns specifically for this target. She stressed the need for more research at the national and local levels, bearing in mind that these contexts play a central role in shaping perceptions, understanding and conditions, especially for this young generation. 

Are you curious to know more? Here you can access the presentation.

Following Joke’s presentation, we had an insightful panel discussion on Gen Z and Mental Health with Nina Kurose, Founding Member & Head of New Business at The Good Company, and our academic members Kirsten Van Poppel, Fontys University, The Netherlands, and Melanie Gray, Bournemouth University, United Kingdom, moderated by the edcom president Gilles Nakhle, Sup de Pub, France.

Having on the panel both the academia and the agency world enabled the audience to learn how they engage with Gen Zs and help with mental health-related issues.  

After the first round of questions, it was clear that the word ‘mental health’ was not entirely accurate when referring to Gen Z and their feelings. Gilles brought our attention to the concept of ‘charge mental’ (mental load), defined as the cognitive effort involved in managing your work, relationships, a family, and a household. Mental load is the whole bundle of details you collect throughout the day. It has to do with your responsibilities, formal or not, as well as the decisions you have to make.”[1]

Building on this concept, the discussion focused on methods and procedures to address Gen Zs mental load in two different settings: universities and agencies. Nina pointed out that Gen Zs are more prone to openly discussing mental health/mental load-related problems than their older colleagues. They are the woke generation, attentive to and concerned about climate change and sustainability, and social and economic issues, such as discrimination and exclusion, looking for a working environment that matches their beliefs. Nina stressed that young people seek guidance and structure and appreciate open communication.

Nina Kurose, Kirsten Poppel-Lassauw, Melanie Gray, Gilles Nakle

On the same note, Kirsten added that 90 % of the time, they want you to listen, they don’t know how to filter information, and they need help canceling the noise to be able to see the solution. She continued highlighting the importance of creating a safe environment enabling students to feel comfortable addressing their problems/concerns.

Melanie added that, from the university perspective, in terms of resources and infrastructure, it is very challenging to provide students with all that is needed to face these problems.

On this point, Gilles closed the session by inviting all the members to share their experiences and best practices on how they and their universities address the mental health issue.

Jean-Claude Hamilius, Hochschule Mannheim, Germany, noted that his university already has a ‘Mental Health office’ for students and a well-being contact person. Still, the students are often reluctant to go there.

Joep Peeters, Fontys University, The Netherlands, shared his experience with an app, available soon, that allows students to share achievements and failures so they are not failing on their own. That failure is a step toward success.

Betty Tsakarestou, Panteion University, Greece, also has an office welcoming students. Furthermore, they have introduced another programme to help students address their concerns by organising retreats and similar events where they directly dive into a mental health-related topic; and organising events, TEDx-like, where they have full ownership of the event and can invite speakers, they consider most appropriate to help them with a specific topic/issue.

Key takeaways:

  • Gen Zs are a stressed and concerned generation: they are more aware of the current economic, social and environmental issues.
  • The mental load is a more precise concept to address Gen Zs stress and concerns, notably in the academic and working environment.
  • Ownership – students and young professionals are not looking for a pre-made solution to their problems. They need guidance to understand their Issues better and take the necessary steps to address them.

In the Spotlight: ChatGPT & Artificial Intelligence

The second part of the session focused on AI. Technology has advanced remarkably in the last few decades, and machines have become Integral to our daily lives. As devices become more sophisticated and capable of performing complex tasks, the question arises: can machines be creative?

With his presentation, our colleague Manuel Millan, Universidad Cardenal Herrea, Spain, tried to answer this question. He first reviewed the current state of computational creativity in advertising, highlighting how the advertising sector already heavily relies on machines for several tasks, such as programmatic advertising, market analysis and language recognition tool.  Manolo then went through three of Wagensberg’s human creative thinking processes to understand to which extent machines can be considered creative.

  • Intuition by analogy: take inspiration from an existing idea.
  • Intuition by combination: associate two or more existing ideas.
  • Intuition by extension: evolve on something known.
Manuel Millan, Universidad Cardenal Herrea, Spain

He concluded that it is unlikely that a computer can become creative on its own, where creativity is conceived as a spontaneous and subjective process that is not linked to a logical or established pattern of behaviour. However, AI and future evolutions will have a significant impact on advertising. Manolo reported how AI would Increase efficiency in the sector, with progressive automation of some tasks, such as email campaigns and customer chatbots, and a massive improvement in data analysis. Yet there are several ethical concerns surrounding artificial intelligence. Among other things, our colleague pointed at the role of algorithms and AI in cultural constructions and modeling behaviour; he stressed the potential harm of AI in perpetrating existing discrimination in society, as algorithms learn and reflect existing inequalities in data they are trained on. We are in AI pre-history. So, we should finish this presentation by saying… For the time being, said Manolo.

If you want to know if AI will replace humans in the creative industry, access Manolo’s presentation and learn more about what might happen.

The second intervention focused on artificial intelligence’s role in the future career of Gen Z in Romania. Madalina Moraru, University of Bucharest, Romania, shared the results of her academic work to provide a better picture of how AI is perceived and used among students.

Madalina Moraru, University of Bucharest, Romania

In her sample, most respondents strongly believe that AI is meant to ease people’s work. She found that the interviewed students are fascinated by AI, and most are interested in learning more and already using it, significantly Increasing efficiency and coping with a lack of time.

Expanding on the results, Madalina presented several concerns stemming from using ChatGPT, including the possibility of losing the creative side due to generative AI tools, which can lead to losing identity and authenticity. AI can jeopardise jobs, as employers will think it can replace human beings.

You can access Madalina’s presentation here.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion with Manolo and Madalina and was moderated by Gilles. The conversation showed that generative AI tools are much more advanced in written communication than generating visual assets. Nina Kurose added that AI should be considered, in the first place, as a tool, not a replacement, and pointed out that Artificial Intelligence cannot pitch the client.

Madalina Moraru, Manuel Millan, Gilles Nakle

We concluded the day with some open questions on the future of artificial intelligence. Madalina focused on the cultural aspects and asked if and how developers will embed these key variables into future applications of AI. Our academic colleague Ian MacRury, University of Stirling, United Kingdom, pointed out the role of educators to highlight the importance of regulating this new and potentially groundbreaking tool, leaving us with the question: How can this technology be regulated?

Key takeaways:

  • For now, AI cannot be considered creative on its own. It can Instead support and ease the workload.
  • There are several moral and ethical concerns around the future evolution of AI, notably in terms of the potential harm in perpetrating existing discrimination in society as algorithms learn and reflect existing inequalities in the data they are trained on.
  • In the creative industry, generative AI is already a tool that can carry out several tasks. Still, It must be considered and used as a complementary tool to the human touch, not a replacement.

Day 2

After an intense first day of insightful discussions, we kicked off the second day with the Ad Venture Student Competition Grand Finale. The shortlisted teams took part in the Q&A session with LEGO in an attempt to scoop first place and attend the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Ultimately, the Highlight team from Thomas More University, Belgium, emerged as winners, taking home the coveted first prize.

Are you curious about our eleven finalists and their pitches? Here we gathered all the finalists’ presentations.

During the afternoon session, we allowed the edcom members to showcase their projects and share best practices with other members. Our colleagues gave the first presentation: Arnoud Versluis, Breda University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands & Kristie Riedl, FHWien der WKW University of Applied Sciences, Austria, about the Cross Border Brand Communication Project (CBBC).

Arnoud Versluis Kristie Riedl

The project brings together students and academics for a week of an intensive and super-inspiring programme. It allows students to work in mixed international teams on a campaign for an actual client. Are you curious to know more and become one of the partners of the CBBC project? Contact Arnoud or Kirstie to learn more.

Following, we had Ann Gemoets, Hogeschool Antwerpen, Belgium & Manuel Milan, Universidad Cardinal Herrera, Spain, introducing their Blended Intensive Program – European Teams in Advertising (BIP EUTA). 

Ann Gemoets, Manuel Millan

This programme has been running since 2003 and offers students the opportunity to work with their international peers on a pan-European campaign that will be developed during a five-day event hosted by one of the partners.  The goal is to challenge students with a real-life brief, creating an enabling environment for them to use their competencies, share knowledge with other students and scale up their skills. The BIP EUTA is co-funded by the European Commission through the Erasmus+ programme. The next edition will take place in Germany, hosted by the Hochschule Darmstadt, from 10-16 March 2024.

Do you want to know more? Contact Ann or Manuel.

Luc van Dijk, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, gave the day’s final presentation about the DEMS project – Developing E-Marketing Skills for the Business Market.

Luc van Dijk

The DEMS project is a cooperation between four higher education institutions: Gdańsk University of Technology in Poland, Turku University of Applied Sciences in Finland, and Instituto Politecnico do Porto in Portugal) and is co-funded by the European Union. The project is aimed to achieve the following objectives:

  • To define SMEs’ actual workforce needs in digital marketing will help identify the precise learning needs.
  • To design a transversal curriculum with learning outcomes that reflect the labour market needs and the critical learning areas of students.
  • To initiate the ‘digitalisation’ of less experienced teachers and to reinforce the pioneering teachers with inspiring and cooperative training activities.
  • To boost graduates’ digital marketing skills by delivering five high-quality and accessible training modules in digital marketing.
  • To practice these courses with a wide range of students.

As part of the DEMS project, Luc also presented The ABC of Digital Marketing. A compact booklet that aims at making the topic more accessible and provides essential steps to help integrate digital channels into your marketing strategy. From setting up your own website to generating traffic, social media, digital advertising, content marketing, and making use of web analytics, this booklet covers it all. Take advantage of the opportunities provided by the digital environment and open your “digital doors” with The ABC of Digital Marketing!

If you would like to learn more, contact Luc.

After the presentations, Gilles took some time to invite members to be more involved and active in the network. He pointed out that members can do many things together, but we need a more robust network and online visibility. Building upon his presidency’s programme: Challenge. Collect. Collaborate. Connect (4C’s); he invited members to join different task forces to join our forces and grow the edcom brand and family. Would you like to join one of the task forces? Get in touch!

The next members’ meeting will take place on 4-5 December in Brussels, so save the date! À la prochaine!

[1] What is mental load? Recognise the burden of invisible labour, Erin Eatough Phd, Online blog, Betterup, accessible here.