The advertising industry has always been a volatile space, but over the last decade that’s become even more true. Brands have launched in-house agencies, built their own content studios and created private ad networks. This year, the impact of furloughs and agency reorganizations have only increased the shakiness. The result has been a surge in freelancing or contract work and the launch of countless new independent shops — admittedly, two positive disruptions in an industry based on tradition.
In 2021, as adland resets, brands and agencies alike will seek consistency for the year ahead. Whether they are set on rebuilding lost revenue or focusing on company culture that was ignored this year, it will be more important than ever for agencies to retain their talent and create environments where brands can return to projected growth figures.
But, the nature of our industry encourages creatives to frequently explore new opportunities, chasing openings at other agencies where they can add brands to their portfolio. The industry continues to see its signature high turnover rate with agency pros staying in one place for only two to three years on average. Even this year, industry professionals have been job-hopping at an alarming rate.
The most common reason I hear from job seekers is burnout. While I don’t discount that the struggle is real, I think this is all-too-often the wrong reason for leaving an agency.
When you respond to a demanding role by adopting the “grass is greener” theory, you’re often overlooking the reality that many agencies deal with the same day-to-day challenges. Instead, I encourage my clients to more deeply understand their own personal reasons for leaving.
People underestimate what they can learn by staying in a difficult role longer. For those who don’t like their current situation, there are always ways to raise a hand and request opportunities for greater support or areas where they can expand their skill set. In my experience, this responsibility lies equally on the employee and the employer. For agency management, it’s sometimes as easy as spotlighting those who are coming up on their second or third year and identify what can be put in place to make their lives a little easier.
The old rule-of-thumb still rings true and most of the companies I work with still value job seekers who have extended stints in previous roles. It shows commitment and loyalty, but it doesn’t mean creatives are selling their soul to the agency.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the majority of the leaders in our industry have not changed organizations very often. Take for example some of the most award-winning creatives: Rob Reilly (McCann Worldgroup), Susan Credle (FCB Global) and Danny Robinson (The Martin Agency), just to name a few. Would they have been afforded the same risk-taking opportunities if they were always the new face in the brainstorm?
So, for talent in the industry, I encourage you to stay where you are. For now at least. Determine the areas where you can grow on your own, and segment the additional areas where you’ll need greater resources from your employer. The best creative professionals didn’t make it to the top without some help along the way.
And to agency leadership, make 2021 a year with double the investment in your internal teams and work to retain the hard-working professionals you already have under your roof.
Sasha Martens, president of Sasha the Mensch, brings hiring and talent solutions to advertising agencies, brands and tech companies across the world. Since 2006, Sasha has been a leader in recruitment for the advertising industry, working with global teams across creative, account, strategy and production disciplines.