Whatever they do, creative placements can’t win. No sooner does the
new minimum wage legislation guarantee them a respectable reward than
they are threatened with fewer placement opportunities because agencies
won’t be able to afford them.
Talk about giving with one hand and taking with the other. But then the
ad industry has always been ambivalent about placements, believing that
if the system isn’t the best, it’s probably the least worst.
Unquestionably, it’s a practice that invites abuse and exploitation.
Horror stories proliferate of teams on placement for 18 months, getting
D&AD-listed and still not getting jobs. Of being paid a few pounds for
expenses or even nothing at all. Of having their ideas ripped off.
Now the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising is warning agencies
that they will be breaking the law if they continue slipping their
placements a few quid at the end of each month out of the petty
Quite right too. If the industry wants to convince clients that it is
professional and properly run, it can no longer tolerate treating its
creative seedcorn in a way that one creative director has compared to
Nobody disputes that the system has its plus side.
As creative departments have shrunk and too many art college students
chase too few jobs, it allows agencies to assess young teams in a
What’s more, it filters out any that are less than totally
And, of course, there are many agencies which take the system seriously,
ensuring that placement teams are treated with respect, properly
rewarded and with the length of the placement period agreed beforehand.
It’s also arguable that the exploitation can work both ways.
Fortunately, the new law should force long-overdue reform. For it cannot
be right that an industry rightly proud of its education programmes for
graduate account people, and which constantly trumpets the importance of
creative potency, continues treating those needed to sustain that
potency as second-class citizens.