Why we should press fast forward on mentoring and coaching in adland - NABS
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Why we should press fast forward on mentoring and coaching in adland

by James Appleby, managing partner at PHD Media London and NABS Fast Forward chair

How taking part in collaborative, communication programs help bolster talent.

Recently, when tidying my 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom, I saw that she had put some signs on her wall saying things like ‘Remember – be kind’, surrounded by love hearts. Next to this sign, there was another which had more varied messages like ‘Learn something new. Make someone smile. Listen’. Now, either my daughter is a prophet, a modern-day Buddha, much-travelled through previous lifetimes, looking to quietly bring the wisdom of the ages to bear and guide us all on the path to happiness or more plausibly, these maxims which we often reach for as grow-ups in a complex world are the same ones which children look to. Perhaps, there is something universal and wise in this bedroom wall advice.

My experience with Fast Forward

Certainly, my own experiences as a team mentor on the NABS Fast Forward course over the last seven years have led me to believe this. The course was conceived 23 years ago when the worlds of advertising and media agency were diverging, creating a communication gap where each group was going off in competing directions rather than working together to achieve the best plan for the client. Nearly a quarter of a century on, and there are a great many more types of channel, business model and agency working on marketing briefs. Thus the need for those of us lucky enough to be working in this industry to work together and listen to each other is probably greater than ever.  

Each autumn, when Fast Forward begins, I get to experience the buzz that only mentoring can bring; watching a team of strangers go from that first quiet meet n’ greet in week one – where usually no one wants to put their head above the parapet, and most are quiet – to the final night, seven weeks later when after their very own competitive pitch to industry judges, they are certain that any result other than a win will signify they have been robbed! In many cases, they also make great friends, forged in the adversity of a pitch scenario. (Try telling anyone who has ever been on the course that it is ‘not a real pitch’).

Good quality training, coaching and mentoring are the biggest opportunities to improve our businesses and our industry.

James Appleby, managing partner at PHD Media London and NABS Fast Forward chair

The industry talent drain

We are all watching the industry talent drain, scratching our heads as to why people are now less engaged, less involved, and less bothered about their work than ever. I think it’s simple. We are human animals who are wired to hang out in groups, where we find validation, support, comfort and enjoyment. We have spent most of the last two years plugged into our screens, leaning down, slowly getting sore necks and drifting apart. Whatever happens next with the pandemic, surely we have learned so far that we are only likely to get back to something resembling the good times if we over-emphasise our personal connections with energy, curiosity and compassion.  

We live in a world where it can feel as though the very fabric of how we communicate can feel like it is fuelling division and discord. We bemoan the echo chamber, as we bemoan those we disagree with. And that’s ok because we are people in society, and this has always happened in some form or other.

As the incoming chair of the NABS Fast Forward course, I am excited about the opportunity it will give all the people involved to connect; to listen, to learn something new, hopefully, to raise the occasional smile.

James Appleby, managing partner at PHD Media London and NABS Fast Forward chair

By listening, collaborating and living with disagreement, we are in our own small way driving some of the positive change that the world could do with a bit more of.

When I have gone through tough times in life or work, I have asked for help, and have always been lucky enough to find it. From now on, whether asking for help or being asked for it, I will simply follow the wise words of those pages stuck to my daughter’s bedroom wall and ‘remember – be kind’.

Fast Forward 2025 runs from February to March 2025.

Find out more on our website or register your interest now.

This article was originally published in BITE.
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