OPINION: Just surviving the highs and lows is not enough

’Agency recruitment levels on the up’ read a Campaign headline last week. ’Recruiting at the bottom end is very encouraging,’ continued the story, which unveiled details of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s latest census, revealing an increase of 500 new staff among member agencies, boosting figures from 12,300 to 12,800. There was also an increase in the number of IPA courses for beginners from 150 to 180 over the past year.

’Agency recruitment levels on the up’ read a Campaign headline last

week. ’Recruiting at the bottom end is very encouraging,’ continued the

story, which unveiled details of the Institute of Practitioners in

Advertising’s latest census, revealing an increase of 500 new staff

among member agencies, boosting figures from 12,300 to 12,800. There was

also an increase in the number of IPA courses for beginners from 150 to

180 over the past year.



Great. But think about it a bit and it’s a sad story from which to take

comfort. Perhaps we’re seeing the glass as half empty, but shouldn’t we

be asking why the figure plunged from 15,400 in 1989/1990 to 11,100 in

1993? If it’s debatable whether the former figure was too high, it is

indisputable that the latter is too low.



As mentioned before in these pages, the number of staff working in

advertising at any given time provides an excellent measure of the

economy. Over the past 25 years the curves (both up and down) have been

a near-perfect mirror of Britain’s boom and bust cycles. It makes life a

little more reassuring in a slump, but makes one wonder how many of

these new recruits will keep their jobs when the next, inevitable,

downward turn comes.



One might imagine that the best agencies would maintain staffing levels

through the recession - just as the more experienced and committed

advertisers retain spend levels. The idea is to maintain brand values

and emerge from troughs better prepared to handle upturns. How many

agencies did this?



And how many agency bosses have asked us ’who’s any good?’ or ’where’s

all the talent?’ recently?



One agency did nail its colours to the mast in the teeth of the last

recession. And it said it would not make staff redundant. Abbott Mead

Vickers BBDO last week became the first agency to be Campaign’s Agency

of the Year in successive years and will, this year, become the UK’s

largest agency. Funny, that.



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