NABS tries to tackle modern day misery in adland

Is adland a more misery-inducing location than it used to be?

Most people would probably say yes, if only because – for those who survived a few years – recollections tend to be the good bits.

But there’s also a lot of evidence across the commercial piece that Brits anyway are more stressed than they were. Nearly a decade of so-called “austerity” hardly helps.

UK industry charity NABS is launching wheat it calls a new model – SHEPARD – to try to improve matters, SHEPARD standing for: Satisfaction, Health, Emotions, Perceptions, Rewards and Diversity.

The programme is purportedly based on neuroscience, which has become the commercial version of DNA evidence. If neuroscience says it’s true then it is. There’s also some Gallup research that says people have become 15 per cent more miserable over the past two years. Is this down to Brexit? Not objecting to it necessarily but driven to distraction by the endless, mostly circular arguments about it.

Anyway mental health issues are estimated to cost of the economy £35bn a year (always rather suspicious of such numbers, when did an economy ever function 100 per cent?) but adland seems to be suffering more than the average, instanced by its 30 per cent staff turnover rate against a national average of ten per cent. That’s pretty damning if it’s true.

Rewards is arguably the most interesting SHEPARD component – defined as people feeling financially secure and empowered and having a sense of status and purpose. You’re hardly likely to feel that if you’re likely to lose or change your job.

But what to do about it? NABS advises people and its findings may be of some help in agencies and elsewhere. It recommends appointing NABS ambassadors in companies.

NABS CEO Diana Tickell says: “We created SHEPARD because we need to think about wellbeing in a new way. Our services at NABS can help people move up the scale across all the elements in SHEPARD, but we can’t do it alone. We want to work with the industry to improve the wellbeing of everyone in adland. Together, we can help get everyone away from just surviving their day and instead actively thriving.”

NABS President (and chair of MediaCom) Karen Blackett says: “We must do more to support our employees; this is not only a moral concern but also a business one. The people working in our industry are its lifeblood and we cannot afford to ignore their needs. It’s time for a more holistic view of wellbeing and how it is interconnected.”

But that’s really only possible in a generally thriving industry and, generally, advertising and media are not. Both are getting bigger but in a skewed way. Facebook, Google et al are growing like topsy but others, from the holding companies to many media owners are not. Smaller outfits, like most independent agencies, live in the entrepreneurial jungle anyway.

Were people happier from the 1980s to the 2000s? Yes, there was more money around and some people made a great deal of it – often without any especially notable talents to their name. It didn’t make them any nicer but the rewards were there.

Credit to NABS for trying to do something about modern day misery. And it’s certainly correct to say that companies should try to intervene when people are suffering, although such intervention may not always be welcomed.

But, ultimately, “It’s the economy, stupid” as Bill Clinton’s campaign manager famously put it back in 1992.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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