OPINION: Minimum wages better than none for creatives

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.

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

cash.



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

Victorian workhouses.



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

working environment.



What’s more, it filters out any that are less than totally

committed.



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.



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