Advertising the advertising industry

In the midst of a talent crisis the industry must think more creatively about how to attract and retain talent

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


In the midst of a talent crisis, when the industry is seeking to create a more inclusive, diverse workforce, attracting and retaining talent remains at the top of the industry agenda. Such a challenge ironically poses the question to the industry: how can we better advertise the advertising industry? 

At a session at the IPA Talent and Diversity Conference, The Unmistakables’ Asad Dhunna hosted a debate with participants from Debate Mate considering whether ‘the advertising industry is in danger of losing its mojo to young people’. While the industry has a unique ability to connect with culture and an undoubtedly creative pull that is attractive to talent, both sides of the argument were in agreement that the industry is simply not doing enough to promote whatever ‘mojo’ it possesses. 

At the Advertising Association’s All In Summit, this conversation was continued with a panel session on Advertising the Advertising industry hosted by Ben Hunte, Global LGBTQ Correspondent at VICE News. It was made up of industry experts; Tammy Einav, CEO at Adam&eveDDB, Pete Markey, Chief Marketing Officer at Boots UK and Kat Bozicevich, Managing Director at Manning Gottlieb OMD.

From de-mystifying the plethora of roles the advertising industry plays host to, to thinking about how to create better talkability, the panel considered how to approach the task of advertising the advertising industry like an agency might any client brief.

Part of the joy of the craft is the journey

Pete Markey, Chief Marketing Officer at Boots UK

This year’s Young Lions competition saw a brief focused around investing in the industry’s talent. Film winners Matt Nicholas, Senior Creative at VCCP and Nick Archer, Creative at Sky Creative produced a film titled ‘The Invitation’. The spot depicted a young girl creating and sharing a poster for a party she is hosting to highlight that many young people already possess the skills to work in the industry. Print winners Joe Sayer, Art Director at The Leith Agency and Marion Miranda, Copywriter at The Leith Agency created a visually captivating poster of a portrait. Created out of staples on paper marked with the header of an insurance services company, the poster was designed to show that some talent in other industries might be better suited to advertising. 

The campaigns both focus on a specific audience and show the creative skills the industry is seeking through the creative executions. The works are examples of how different audiences can be reached when the task of advertising the industry is treated as a brief. 

The panel suggested that these efforts could go even further by thinking about the range of media and platforms we have available to reach audiences with far more illustrious skillsets than purely artistic or creative. From planners to strategists, data analysts to social media managers the industry houses an array of jobs that so many are unaware of. By working back from the audience and treating recruitment like a campaign, the industry can cast a much broader net. 

Looking for talent in the right places

Bozicevich stressed the need for an audience-first approach to talent campaigns, pointing out that the winning Young Lions campaigns have been created for a very specific talent pool. Namely young school leavers with a passion for the creator economy and talent from other industries. In an industry obsessed with youth, it is important not to forget the potential of returners or job switchers. She suggests that an approach could be to promote the industry of the future, not just what is on offer currently and give talent the opportunity to help shape what the industry could look like.

Markey spoke about his experience of receiving applications for work experience. He explained that while many young people simply want to work in advertising but do not know about the range of departments on offer. Hunte stressed the importance of getting out into schools and educating as an antidote for this. “Young people aren’t watching the 6 o’clock news,” he says, urging the industry to get out of the London bubble and meet real young people where they are. “When we have work experience people don't expect them to be the culture already, help build confidence” he added. 

Reflecting real stories

A recent news article talking about the money the creative industries brings to the economy used ‘Mad Men’ as a reference point for audiences. The panel agreed that the show isn’t a good or accurate representation of what the industry aims to be with its male-dominated and money-orientated lens. However Einav sees the merits of a cultural reference point creating ‘talkability’. 

For an industry where storytelling and narrative is crucial to creating connection, lifting the lid on what it’s really like to work in advertising could be a great way to show the magic of the creative process. WACL’s Mad Women on Channel 4 is an example of how advertising can resonate in culture and speak to audiences on a mass scale. Lifting the lid on campaigns beyond the famous Cadbury’s Gorilla and Guinness surfboards shows how the industry has an impact on popular culture and can make real change. Markey stresses the importance of content that shows the creative process to attract talent. “Part of the joy of the craft is the journey,” he explained, adding that anything that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of the industry could inspire others to get involved in the hopes that their creativity could also have real-world impact.

Mentoring programs like Bloom, masterclasses like Brixton Finishing School and support groups like NABS mean the advertising industry is creating more tools and platforms for talent to flourish. However, it is crucial that talent is attracted to the industry in the first place. 

Many in the industry are already aware of the power of creativity and the excitement of seeing a campaign change behaviours and make a real impact. Now is the time to lift the lid on the opportunities, offer a helping hand to others and use the building blocks that have been created to welcome the talent of the future into the industry.

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