How can advertising agencies find and keep great people when business culture is changing more rapidly than ever?
According to Ending the Agency Talent Rotisserie, a new report created by Deutsch LA with the 4A’s, agencies need to find more ways for employees to scratch their entrepreneurial itch.
A 4A’s study last year found that one-third of agency professionals plan to leave their agency each year, taking their talent, brand knowledge, and client relationships with them. That’s the agency talent rotisserie, and it hurts all agencies.
So Deutsch LA wanted to take a deeper look at why people felt the urge to leave. In conjunction with the 4A’s, we interviewed 1500 advertising professionals in an advertising brand health check.
Deutsch LA looked at the numbers and found that fundamentals important in any good work environment—compensation and work-life balance—still matter in advertising.
- When asked to describe their ideal job, 83% of respondents say it should have better compensation. 69% say it should have a good work-life balance.
But other less tangible factors like ownership and growth are important, too.
- The number one reason people left their agencies to take a new job was growth opportunity, at 52%. Meanwhile, compensation came in third at 38%.
- Another high-ranking factor was ownership: 47% say they want ownership of the work they do.
Add to this the fact that advertising people have a self image as outgoing renegades who are dissatisfied with the current state of the world.
- Compared to other industries, the advertising people see themselves as creative (89%), extroverted (83%) rule breakers (72%).
Together, this combination of factors paints a picture of the entrepreneurial mindset of people in advertising. They want to be engaged, to take risks, and reap the rewards.
Looking for creativity elsewhere
Meanwhile, despite what Mad Men has done to sex up the image of the ad biz, other industries are winning on the very values we cherish.
Web companies like Google and tech companies like Apple aren’t just our clients, they are serious competition for creative mindshare.
- 65% say the most creative person they know isn’t in advertising.
- The most creative company they can think of isn’t an agency: 60% say Apple is the most creative company, followed by Google at 30% and Virgin at 10%.
On top of it all, life in the agency has become more of a slog:
- 67% of people say it’s harder to do great creative than it used to be.
This is only one stat, but it cannot be overstated. The perception that new, fresh, innovative things are being built and put into the marketplace at Google and Apple is in stark contrast to what people feel is happening at their agency.
All this makes advertising a lot less sticky than it used to be in years past.
- 43% of those surveyed say they fell into advertising, as opposed to choosing it.
- 25% don’t say they love advertising; 50% say it wouldn’t be hard for them to fit into other industries.
So, advertising has freedom-loving people that want to create their own destinies, but a work environment that feels hampered by internal processes. There’s greener grass elsewhere, and people are cooling off on the idea that advertising is a hot profession.
5 recommendations to keep your people
If this were a brand we were pitching, we would propose some aggressive thinking to get their audience more engaged.
Deutsch LA believes agencies should start delivering real change in the agency work experience: giving their people more chances to own and build stuff, to scratch that entrepreneurial itch. Because, at the core, the people in advertising joined agencies because they want to grow, to learn, to be scared, and to make their own ideas. Here are five ways to make your people happy:
- Less Fortune 500, more startup. Many agencies are part of large corporations, but they can’t afford to act like them. Agencies need to manage their holding company relationships in a way that gives managers control to respond, react, and support employees. Give people within your agency the ability to run their businesses like their own small companies.
- Invest in an R & D budget. Bring in people and projects that don’t focus strictly on the bottom line. Agencies now have the resources to build things like apps—so build them for yourselves.
- Work in smaller teams. Work in lean, flat structures that give everyone participating control of the process and recognition for the outcomes.
- Create radical learning opportunities. Success in advertising sometimes mean you get locked into a particular account or role where you’ve excelled. So aggressively give people the chance to learn other parts of the business, through agency cross-training.
- Keep entrepreneurship in-house. Creative people want to stretch, so support their side projects, whether it’s making a movie or starting a nonprofit. Give them time and resources to do these things, and celebrate their successes.