Does the ad industry have a problem attracting young, creative talent?

Does the ad industry have a problem attracting young, creative talent?

Ben Walker, Founder, Who Wot Why

“There’s no doubt that advertising holds less appeal to young people than it once did. You only have to look at the numbers of students on the courses, as well as the number of actual courses which will still lead to a job in advertising to see that we are in something of a slump. You can put that squarely down to one thing. Money.

“As budgets get tighter lots of things happen. First, agencies become less brave. And a less brave agency produces less effective work. Less people see it and those that do don’t want to emulate it. Second, salaries start to drop. When salaries drop, jobs become less attractive. Then agencies rely more heavily on freelance. Freelancers are largely bought in to firefight. Firefighting is hard work.

"Freelancers are unlikely to see the project through because agencies don’t want to pay creatives for production if they can help it. So freelancers find themselves on an endless exhausting wheel where they are asked to come up with ideas quickly and then moved on just as quickly. They suffer. The work suffers. Youngsters look on and thing ‘sod that for a game of soldiers’.

"Finally, agencies become less fun. The first thing to get cut in the agency budget is usually the social side. The ‘Jolly Trolley’ (aah those were the days). The summer party. The Friday night tab at the pub. The trips to see wonderful films, exhibitions, gigs. These get cut immediately. But the same creative output is expected. So, less fun, more work. Young people are less likely to want to sign up for that.

“Although numbers are down, there are still some wonderfully talented young people aspiring to get into the advertising industry. It’s our duty to nurture them, to give them time, training, inspiration, financial incentive and a place where they can play. If we do that, the future’s bright. If we don’t then does this industry have a creative future at all?”

Ben Walker

Andrew Southcott, Managing Director, Captivate Group

“The industry is home to challenging, rewarding and sociable careers so it will always attract young, creative talent. Universities continue to provide high quality candidates and most agencies have already built links to such institutions.

“The challenge is to create and develop connections outside of the university pipeline, for example schools, colleges and connectors like @existloudly and createnothate.org. Whilst I agree we need to change the make-up of the 16-23 year old talent pool, I don’t think we have an absolute numbers problem.

“If you are looking for issues that are limiting the industry talent pool, rather than looking at the risk from failing to attract young talent, I would look at the industry’s approach to talent retention of its elder practitioners and on enabling parents to return after a couple of years out.”

Andrew Southcott


Gellan Watt, Creative Chair – Alliance of Independent Agencies and Founder of Ideally


“Adland was once the best place for people to make a career out of making things – this has changed. Dramatically. Because there’s more choice for young people to create in a range of exciting roles brand side as creative departments grow in-house in design, digital, video, social. So when it comes to talent – we’re not often competing not just with each other as agencies, but with our clients – to attract, develop and keep the kind of talent that makes us important.

“Add to this, that adland doesn’t have the glossy appeal that it used to – and yes, we absolutely have an increasing challenge attracting the best young creative talent.

"We need to restate the case for a career in advertising, which is also a world known as much for burnout as creativity – and with a world focused on wellness – the case for agency is getting harder to make for some young people.

“We can meet the challenge by being bolder in the way that we treat young people and restating the value we create for our clients. The independent agency sector is better at doing this – responding faster to the changing needs of your talent – but as an industry we need to tell a better story about ourselves!”

Gellan Watt