Twenty creative directors, planners, media strategists, and account executives from agencies across the country are down on all fours on the floor of a 100-year-old tenement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. They are each staring down at a blank poster-size sheet of paper, contemplating their most abject fears about their careers, their livelihoods, and their future. They have reason to worry. They are, after all, in the business of advertising.
This slight three-story brick building on the edge of Chinatown has been taken over by Hyper Island, a school based in Sweden renowned for producing the most coveted digital talent in the ad industry. That school is located in an old prison on the Baltic Sea, and students are taught that there are no boundaries when it comes to digital marketing.
Last summer, the Swedes at Hyper Island recognized that where there’s panic, there’s opportunity, and opened this New York branch. Like the many foreigners who settled in this downtown locale before, the school arrived with its own set of promises — to drag the denizens of Madison Avenue into the 21st century. While its students back in Sweden are “digital natives,” these elder New Yorkers are “digital immigrants,” who have gathered for three days of hard-core immersion in dealing with the chaos digital technology has wrought on their industry. “Something digital immigrants would do,” explains one instructor, “is make a phone call to make sure someone received an email.”
Most of the men and women here — average age: 38 — have worked at agencies for more than a decade. Such tenure used to be considered an asset, but these days it’s more of a liability. They’re all well aware that coding is now prized over copywriting and that a résumé that includes Xbox and Google is more desirable than one featuring stints at BBDO or Grey. [more]