Let me ask you a question. Are the meetings you have with your agency a bit different these days? Have you noticed a change in the people? Is there one pretty senior exec and the rest junior? One trusted, familiar, and gently aging face…. And a sea of fresh ones?
It’s a worry isn't it. It’s not just poicement that are getting younger. And according to your procurement team this is the new normal.
As I sat at Procurecon at the beginning of summer it became very clear that the data somewhat lets the cat out of the bag. Yes, we all knew there was a talent shortage, but this has become a full-blown talent crisis. A succession issue. A fundamental imbalance at the root of the business.
Your procurement people know about it, and they are concerned. There is a visible audit trail, and they have seen it. Through the hourly rates on the RFIs they are receiving from agencies it is becoming clear that the workforce they are relying on to get work made are a handful of senior talent and then a host of juniors.
This is a data trail that proves that the great resignation (or great recalibration as it should be) is not a media-made-up story. The middle of the industry is missing. Data shows that 36% of people left the industry post-Covid - and these are the ones who did the brunt of the work, owned the craft and taught those juniors how to do it properly.
And these are the ones who aren’t coming back.
And why would they, when Aldi’s grad scheme pays 44k and advertising is between 17k and 28k with the average of just over 22K? Or when McDonald’s is offering school leavers not only a salary but a business degree at Manchester Met?
Or they can take their entrepreneurial spirit and skillset and throw themselves into a dynamic start-up or scale-up that thinks like them, acts like them and appreciates their time and desire for a life outside of work. Instead of making them do 70-hour weeks, work weekends and trying to cover it all up with a few free drinks and a Fussball table. They’ll get stock. A future. And kudos with their peer group.
This leaves you, as clients, in a bit of a pickle, buying hours in an antiquated set-up, staffed by people with less experience…. who take longer to do the job.. hmmmm
But all is not lost. You can begin to make sure you are getting a fair value exchange by asking some pointed questions of your agency partners. Such as how many bits of business your senior talent is spread across (btw it gets more every year) and how much of that time are you are actually going to get? Really?
Or open Pandora's box….. I have never known a creative to fill out a timesheet in a timely manner... Oh the irony. And they are usually more ‘creative’ than their last ‘TikTok’. Is time actually being properly reported? It’s a serious issue. Even though they all opt out of the European Working Time Directive, all hours are rarely 100% billable or recoverable. Because there aren't enough people and too many briefs. So they are being worked too hard…. And you are buying the output of those tired minds.
Or. You can rip up the rule book altogether and look at testing and investing in business models that exist outside of the traditional core. Those that have seen that the system is cracked, and are trying to build a new and better one to make sure brilliant minds do brilliant work for brilliant clients. The missing middle are still working you know. Just not in your agency.
Look at businesses that don’t charge you by the hour but only ask you to pay for the ideas. That push the risk to the agency, and encourage top talent to the table, so you only get quality ideas. At less cost and with less bureaucracy. You don’t have to look too hard to find your missing middle. But you do have to open your eyes in the first place.