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Prepare for talent that might just be passing through

The concept of a job for life doesn't motivate new talent and agencies need to adapt accordingly

By Jeremy Lee

As if the cost-of-living crisis, the war in Ukraine and even monkeypox (for Christ’s sake) aren’t enough to contend with right now, the IPA has just produced a report that suggests that consumers aren’t interested in brands entertaining us or making us smile at the moment – instead they’d rather they focussed on their value proposition. Oh great. So not much joy to be had there then – or anything that’s necessarily going to set the hearts of creatives aflutter.

If jobbing out price promotions or advertising no frills ranges - however expedient - is the short to medium-term future of the creative industry then perhaps it will only add to the existing talent crisis. Incidentally – and interestingly - Greg Hahn, the founder of Mischief, seems to take a refreshingly opposite view to the IPA’s rather portentous research with his work, as one of our features this week reveals.

Simultaneous to the IPA’s gloom, and on the subject of the cost of living, the president of the Advertising Association and chief customer officer of Tesco Alessandra Bellini identifies sluggish pay rises in the industry that are failing to keep up with inflation or economic growth as factors contributing to the problem of attracting new talent into the business.

While economic times are undoubtedly tough, and likely to get tougher before they get better, we believe that advertising remains an attractive career option. It’s just that the rules of engagement are changing. Whilst once people were prepared to toil in the post room (just ask NCA’s James Murphy) on a minimum wage as a way of getting a foot in the door of a great agency, new talent no longer necessarily has that deep emotional connection or indeed the appetite for deferred gratification.

Advertising is no longer a rare place where new talent can monetise their creativity; creativity has been democratised and so have the routes to an audience; in the spirit of democracy and equality, that’s got to be a good thing. Creators can now work at speed, make money and build their own brand without the need for the infrastructure of an agency to back them. So what can agencies - and creative departments in particular - offer them, beyond a sense of community and a modicum of job security, so that they can borrow their talent?

For agencies where such talent might just be passing through – rather than looking to earn a gold watch after 30 years - there has to be a fundamental rethink about how to build an environment where people want to stay and flourish. And this isn’t just about hybrid working or better remuneration (although they of course are important factors) or baristas or free crisps on a Thursday.

Allowing risk-taking ideas – even if they are likely to fail – and putting in place incentive schemes and rigorous development programmes, while encouraging people to pursue creative side hustles, will produce a more dynamic, motivated and rounded workforce, and better work. And this will apply as much to a BOGOF promotion as a joyful brand blockbuster.


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