’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.