Impero survey sets out to find reasons behind advertising’s “brain drain”

London agency Impero has been looking at what it calls advertising’s “brain drain” – remember those, it used to be scientists abandoning the UK – in a new report called Rebranding Advertising.

Burn-out, mental health, a lack of diversity and poor work-life balance are usually blamed for adland’s travails but Impero’s respondents put forward other reasons too.

A key finding was that 62 per cent of industry talent has interviewed outside adland over the last 12 months and the majority of only intend to stay in the industry for 2-5 years.

24 per cent of respondents said that “creativity needs saving” even though creativity had been what attracted 58 per cent to the industry.

23 per cent of complained that “we need a fairer culture that is more reflective of the outside world.”

21 per cent blamed hours: “we are trying to squeeze more and more work in for the same amount of money and people are working far too many hours.”

18 per cent cited the need to change business models business models: “in an increasingly tech-led world, we need to up our game to stay relevant and future-fit.”

Just eight per cent said the social life needed to change and six per cent that advertising didn’t pay as well as it should: “advertising doesn’t pay enough to be working this hard any more”.

On the usual suspects, 35 per cent said they had experienced mental health problems and 38 per cent that they knew someone else who had, 36 per cent said they knew someone who had been on the receiving end of sexist behaviour although 25 per cent thought this had reduced and 21 per cent saw burnout as a problem. So still significant.

Impero founder and creative director Michael Scantlebury (below) says: “To avoid a brain drain of the best talent to other, sexier industries like tech, we need to drastically increase our focus on making great work people care about. We need to make funny work, effective work, work that really reaches people, rather than getting lost in a programmatic bubble.

“When it comes to sexism and diversity – I think it’s frankly embarrassing that these issues still exist in such a supposedly progressive, open-minded industry: but it’s indicative of an old white boys’ club that has seen its day, and it’s good to see these issues are on the decline.”

Chris Hirst, global CEO of Havas Creative Network and author of ‘No Bullsh*t Leadership’ says: “As an industry, our single most important asset is the quality of our creative talent – our very survival depends on it. Talented people have always had choices – even more so with the pace of disruption today – so we clearly need to work harder to hold onto them.

“This means creating a culture which attracts them, as well as laying out clear career paths to hold onto them. Those career paths will be far more diverse today than they once were – some people will want more opportunities for learning and progression; others more flexibility to focus on outside pursuits; and, in age of great uncertainty, others will want more reassurance and support.

MediaCom UK CEO Josh Krichefski, UK CEO at MediaCom says: “Advertising is an attractive industry which appeals to many. But we’ve relied on that for too long. We’ve haven’t always made the most of people’s talent or taken care of them enough and this has been heightened by the way our industry has transformed. Advertising provides diversity of skill sets and career paths – but we need to help grow people’s skills and nurture our people to unleash them.

“Similarly, we must address the mental health challenge in our industry. As exciting as the media is, there is a high-pressure ‘sink or swim’ mentality often celebrated which is damaging to our people and our industry. If we’re going to attract and retain talent, we need to fix that and make sure people know as an industry we are dedicated to doing so.”

Which just about nails it but does any other industry dispense with people as promptly in bad times as advertising? Lose an account and people lose their jobs. Happens elsewhere too of course but arguably not to the same extent.

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About Stephen Foster

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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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