The Dawn of New Magic

Author: Phil Flickinger

I recently had the pleasure of visiting my alma mater, The VCU Brandcenter, for its annual recruiter’s session. Alumni affectionately refer to the Brandcenter as “Hogwarts for Advertising”; it’s a special place where we sharpened our magical marketing skills and learned from the best in the business. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was my second-most talked about subject; it was fun to riff on the Hogwarts/Brandcenter metaphor with students. Unsurprisingly, the topic that merited the most discussion was Artificial Intelligence.

The class of 2024 marks the first generation of advertising professionals who will be wielding mainstream AI tools from the outset of their careers. This stands in contrast to the leaders of every agency and every brand in the world, who are adapting to a new normal after decades of doing things differently. With this in mind, I’ll channel my inner Dumbledore and offer anyone entering the ad biz a few nuggets of wisdom:

Come Out of the Shadows
Just like the muggle world turned upside-down when magic emerged from the shadows, our advertising world is getting disrupted. In the resulting chaos, you’re going to encounter resistance, both internally and externally. Don’t try to conceal your use of this new magic. Be transparent. Be proud of your powers.

Craft a Playbook
For his most challenging class in Book Six, Harry receives a used copy of an Advanced Potion-Making textbook. Its margins are packed with meticulous annotations from the enigmatic “Half-Blood Prince”—tweaks to ingredients lists, adjustments to potion-making procedures, notes-to-self on what worked. These notes gave the writer (and later, Harry) a distinct edge. Don’t abandon those great note-taking habits you honed in school. Craft a playbook (an Apple Note, a Google Doc, etc.) as you continue to master AI. Log prompts that prove effective, links that reveal wisdom, and tactics that yield results. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Elves in the House
Remember how house elves would handle a household’s mundane tasks in the Wizarding World? Junior employees used to be the house elves at agencies. But now juniors have a virtual legion of them at their disposal. This unprecedented ability to delegate has the potential to accelerate your development, as you’ll be honing managerial skills from day one. But don’t obsess over delegating to AI at the expense of collaborating with your colleagues. It’s not enough to be a good manager; you need to be a good leader. On that note…

Lead by Example
A lot of people are terrified of this new magic we call AI. They call it dark magic, but you know otherwise. Lead them towards the light. Lead up like Harry, Hermione, and Ron did throughout the series. Use AI to complement your skills, not replace them. Work with colleagues to share AI learnings and best practices. Win over skeptics with irrefutable evidence.

There’s new magic out there. Show us what you can do with it.