I’ve blogged before about how marketing agencies are very light on diversity, particularly in senior positions. I’ve also blogged about why agencies should be embracing #PowerPartTimers.
But the two rants are connected. An agency-standard 50 hour week plus nightmare commute simply isn’t do-able for many Mums, for the carers of elderly parents or for the generally less robust types among us. Which might help explain why the majority of regional agency senior teams seem to be mostly made up of middle aged men who have a full support system at home keeping all the domestic plates spinning.
But working closely with lots of people who live pretty much the same life as you can really affect strategic and creative thinking. In my freelance days I once worked with an agency senior team (all male, all foodies) who were perplexed by a food client’s NPD as they couldn’t see a role for it. As someone with a very different lifestyle to them, I was already using it in several ways at home long before the brief ever hit my inbox.
If 50 hour weeks don’t work for anyone except a core demographic, then the way agencies work needs to change because diversity = better ideas = better billings. Despite HR not being their strong point, my previous agency really got this and at least 20% of the staff were on part time or otherwise flexible contracts (early starts, only working term time, working from home and so on).
Now I’ve parted company with that agency (it’s a long and frustrating story), I’m looking for a new role at a similar level and was very disappointed when one agency that had a job with my name written all over it were steadfast that they saw it as a full time role. I have responsibilities and challenges outside work that make me a better, more rounded Planner and Strategist, but mean that a full time role in an agency (which let’s be honest, means 50 hours on a good week) would be impossible. My clients have never seemed to have a problem with my availability, but many agencies have yet to evolve in structure and working practices sufficiently for flexible working to become the norm, as they will have to if they are to attract and retain the best talent.
With SkyBet currently outbidding every agency in Yorkshire for talent (if you want to see an agency boss foam at the mouth round here, just mention Sky), the obvious move for regional agencies would be to start embracing and shouting about flexible working, but I won’t hold my breath.