Over the last 19 years (!) I’ve worked for four different marketing agencies and freelanced for many more and I’ve ended up with a love-hate relationship with the marketing industry.
I love the speed at which good work can happen, the thrill of a pitch, the buzz of unearthing a fresh insight, the satisfaction of a sales uplift, the glorious ridiculousness of working in an office that closely resembles a children’s playroom and the brilliant people I’ve met along the way.
I’m not so fond of the bullying, the very long hours and the fast-track promotion for Men Whose Face Fits and I’ve heard far too many first person reports of clients sexually harassing their agency account handlers.
I should stress that I wasn’t aware of all of these problems happening at every agency I’ve worked at, but from what the Agency Old Girls Network tells me, my observations and personal experience if anything understate the size of the industry’s problems.
The marketing industry is being attacked from all sides – the big consulting firms are moving in on brand work, the big tech firms are stealing both client spend and the best brains, as Grocery and FMCG move to EDLP margins are being eroded that would have supported marketing spend and with GDPR close on the horizon and fallout from the Cambridge Analytics / Facebook debacle all future activity will have to be squeaky clean from a data point of view. So why make things harder? Why increase staff turnover and make it more difficult to recruit good people?
According to the IPA’s 2018 Agency Census, staff turnover across the industry is currently 31.9%. Effectively, the average agency is now replacing a third of it’s staff every year. In recruiter fees alone that’s a massive drain on the bottom line, never mind the lost productivity from having so many staff still finding their feet, unsettled teams, time lost interviewing and inducting and clients unhappy that their account team has changed, yet again.
So maybe it would be a really sensible, cost-saving idea for agencies to have absolute zero tolerance for sexual harassment and bullying (by staff OR clients) and to focus on hanging onto their staff by treating and rewarding them fairly and equally.
On a not entirely unrelated note, I’ve left Bloom – it’s a long and frustrating story (but to be very clear, it doesn’t involve sexual harassment). I’m going to be freelancing for a bit while I find the right role at the right agency (or client brand) so if you need some short term support, please give me a shout.