Dentsu Aegis introduces advertising to tech-inclined students

The CODE is a program aiming to not just train young people for the digital economy, but present the industry as a career option.

As digitization continues to shape the future of marketing and society at large, Dentsu Aegis Network is launching The CODE, an educational initiative aimed at preparing youth to enter the digital economy – and to see advertising as their entry point.

The CODE – which stands for Creativity, identifying Opportunities for future talent, encouraging Diversity and promoting Empowerment – launched globally at the start of 2019. Following Bulgaria, Poland, Singapore and the U.K., it launches in its Canadian offices this month, says Kate Dobrucki, director of communications for Dentsu Aegis Network.

“People are concerned about this digital economy,” Dobrucki says, something that is particularly true for parents of high school-aged students. “They’re starting to question what sort of jobs are going to be out there in the world for [their] kids. The crazy part is that we don’t really fully know yet either.”

The program will launch in Toronto, followed by Montreal and Vancouver in early 2020. Beginning with 80 students in Toronto, the goal is to improve the digital skills of some 100,000 young people by next year.

Beyond simply giving youth skills to the next generation, The CODE introduces the advertising and marketing world to them, says Dobrucki. Tech companies like Google and Microsoft – often big draws for digitally inclined talent – have apprenticeship and internship opportunities for students, but Dobrucki says they are focused on post-secondary streams. Dentsu’s program will work closely with high schools as members of the company’s teams volunteer their time and knowledge, introducing the marcom world as a possibility to students who might otherwise only consider the tech giants, and before they’ve made choices about their career path.

“What we want to do is spread the word about the advertising industry, do some workshops with them, introduce them to some key brand leads, but also bring them into the agency through internships, work placements, projects [and] competitions,” she explains.

The CODE builds on outreach Dentsu has already undertaken and is common among other agencies. Executives from a variety of the network’s agency brands have held speaking engagements or taught part-time in related post-secondary programs and facilitated internships, Dobrucki says. But now these initiatives are now streamlined under The CODE brand with tools to standardize the experiences. It also creates opportunities to learn from potential future talent, on factors like how to make the workplace more agile and adaptive from the participating students.

“It very much dives down into something that our global citizens are concerned about,” she says, and “it gives us an opportunity to teach and learn ourselves.”