Picture the scene. Two advertising sorts are talking at one of those advertising things.
GAZ So how’s…?
BAZ Wanted to talk to you, actually.
GAZ New business?
GAZ Vanity project?
BAZ Not really.
GAZ Ah, I’m pretty busy…
BAZ You can call it a vanity project if you want?
BAZ Placement teams.
GAZ Don’t need any more. Got a few in at the moment. One guy stares at you for too long and I think another one is nicking the aloe vera toilet paper.
BAZ Mind me asking how much you pay them?
GAZ We pay pretty well, actually. They get £250, a free run at the stationery cupboard and, if they’re lucky, a pint on Friday. Industry standard, right?
BAZ Seems so. But I was thinking the other day, though – if they are on £250 and were doing eight hours a day, five days a week, they’d be earning less than minimum wage.
BAZ Yep. Is that a bit… fucking terrible?
GAZ I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.
BAZ And do yours do eight hours a day, five days a week?
GAZ They might do a bit more than that. Now and again. But you’re supposed to treat them badly, aren’t you? We all went through it. The struggle, the battle, placement poverty and all that.
BAZ Yeah, but maybe the struggle should be about doing well and trying to get a job, not how you’re going to feed yourself.
GAZ We’ve got a cereal cupboard.
BAZ But we’ve had loads of placements in who’ve also had to have part-time jobs. Either that or they’re getting themselves into more debt than they’re already in. Then there are the ones who just can’t afford to do placements in the first place.
GAZ Chill your boots, Gandhi. You after a white Pencil or what?
BAZ It just seems loads of young people can’t even try to get a job in advertising, not because of talent but because they can’t afford it. Bit rubbish, isn’t it? Particularly if we want the industry to be slightly less middle class and white.
GAZ True. And wanting the industry to be less middle class and white is very trendy nowadays. So what we saying? £260?
BAZ We’re a multibillion-pound industry. We probably pay the guy who sorts the fruit and flowers more.
GAZ Jesus. How much then?
BAZ How about the living wage?
GAZ You’ve lost me again.
BAZ It’s like a sort of independent recommended wage thing, you know, based on a fair, liveable amount of money. Loads of companies are signing up to it, apparently.
GAZ A fair, liveable amount of money? That’s quite a radical proposition, even for us guys.
BAZ In London, it’s £9.15 an hour. Works out at £366 a week. Just over £19,000 a year.
GAZ Piss off. There’s a recession on, you know?
BAZ How much did you spend on sending your lot to Cannes last year?
GAZ Cannes is essential. They do talks about coding.
BAZ Turns out some agencies already pay more than the living wage, but the vast majority of us don’t.
GAZ Why would we, if no-one is forcing us to?
BAZ Because it’s sort of… mean? Inhumane? Shit?
GAZ And I guess you’re going to tell me it’s also inhumane to keep them on for months, even if there’s no job going?
BAZ How long have you dragged your last pair out for?
GAZ Nearly a year.
BAZ And you didn’t hire them?
GAZ Didn’t have the budget.
BAZ Why did you keep them on?
GAZ Have you seen how many sizes banner ads come in nowadays?
BAZ So, essentially, they were sort of being treated like a junior team, without any of the benefits or safety?
GAZ Yeah, billed as one too.
BAZ So maybe we should recognise when they’re working more like a freelance team and pay them accordingly.
GAZ What? Treat them like normal people?
BAZ I know. It’s a pretty big idea.
GAZ Hey, we could do a case study about it. Enter it for something?
The way most of us treat placements is beyond a joke. It needs to change. A very small handful of agencies have woken up to this, and we think everyone else should too. We would like to find a way of making the living wage the very least all IPA agencies pay their placement teams. And set a three-month limit on placements, with a £100-a-day freelance rate kicking in for every day after that.
It seems like a no-brainer and, so far, everyone we’ve spoken to agrees. Do you?
All thoughts, opinions and comments welcome. Visit campaignlive.co.uk to vote in the online poll.
Ben Harris is a freelance writer and Stu Outhwaite is a creative partner at Creature