Advertising industry addresses negative connotation, but it could be too little too late

Katharine Schafli, Business Director at TrinityP3 Hong Kong sent me a link to this story in AdWeek titled “Advertising gets face lift to attract young talent”.

Andrew McMains reports that the 4As and advertising agency Arnold Worldwide are addressing the “image problem that threatens to make careers unattractive to new, young talent”.

The issues identified are:

  1. Agencies are fiercely competitive, backstabbing and eat their young (thanks Mad Men).
  2. Agencies invest little in training and mentoring staffers.
  3. General market agencies aren’t as techie-friendly as digital shops.
  4. Jobs are scarce.

The solution was not a traditional advertising campaign, but a website because as it was clear to the 4A’s and Arnold that traditional ads wouldn’t bring results for their new “Open Advertising” campaign.

“We didn’t even think about it because we need a dialogue, not a monologue,” said Arnold CEO Andrew Benett.

But the question is, is it enough?

One of the issues affecting attracting and maintaining talent in the industry is the downward pressure on advertising costs means the financial rewards of advertising are less attractive than many other industries.

And we are not just talking about salaries. Training, mentoring, corporate philanthropy and career planning all cost money. Revenue that many in procurement are increasingly less willing to be covered by overhead and profit margins and multiples.

If marketers and procurement only talk about sustainable remuneration, but are unwilling to support it and continue squeezing the margins, then no matter what the industry does to try and change perceptions, it will likely be unable to fund and deliver a reality.

Now I know that many will point to the recently reported profit margins in the holding companies like WPP, Interpublic and Publicis, but when you look at the numbers the increase is not strategy and creativity providers it is in digital, media, research,  production and other marketing services.

So as any good marketer knows, a great advertising campaign is a fast way to kill a product that does not deliver to the hype. Could it be that in changing perceptions and raising expectations without agencies being able to deliver due to decreasing margins they will actually speed up the decline in attracting and keeping talent?

What do you think?

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email:
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2 Responses to Advertising industry addresses negative connotation, but it could be too little too late

  1. Anne Miles says:

    I definitely see a trend of inexperienced people in roles in favour of more experienced and therefore more expensive. The difference is that the effect of their inefficiencies and lack of experience ends up costing the job, and therefore the client, but unfortunately it is a chargeable cost when the salary overhead often isn't – so the incentive for agencies isn't there.

    I was appointed Head of TV at 21 years old so can say I benefitted from this trend on a personal level. I can vouch for this being a pattern that's been around for over 30 years or more and so nothing is new here. Actively advertising for the younger, often unskilled, employees will bring a faster decline to the industry I feel. I certainly feel there is a valid place for the unskilled but with some appropriate guidance and mentoring to steer their development. Having this balance is the ideal scenario IMHO.

    What I think is a way forward for those struggling to compete is to become multi-talented and add value at many levels; to be operating across many tasks at once and particularly at the mid level. The quality of the work is going to suffer with any model, but I feel this is the lesser of the evils and adds more value in the mix of things.

    The writer/art director is one person instead of two, the producer/account director is another compatible combination, designer/art director or producer/writer/director for example. The agency producer/post house/production house producer combination also works and explains a lot of in-house productions and why they offer good value. Cross platform creative or a writer that understands social media and strategy for example. Those that have reinvented are remaining relevant and competitive.

    I'd like to think that there is a place for the young to come in and bring an energy in implementation and to bring their own unique insights to the industry, but in balance with some good guidance and direction. I don't think there is an issue when the balance is right.

  2. TrinityP3 says:

    Hi Anne, I think that advertising is or at least has been an intrinsically young profession. The difference now is that there are less senior and experienced staff to mentor and those who are still with the agency are invariably too busy to mentor those around them either in a formal or informal way. I remember being luck enough to learn about typography from a great professional Lew Lewington. Or watch hand retouching for press with jack Gidley. Or learn about television production with Stuart Nelson and Toni Chadwick. These people were experienced professionals who did their job to a high standard but also had the time to share with newbies like me the skills of those professions. It gave me a basic understanding of each of these areas that I have continued to build on over time.

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