CRAFT: FORUM - Will introducing the minimum wage endanger creative placements?

Mary Budd

Mary Budd

IPA employment affairs consultant

Awareness of the problem is low in the industry because people think of

advertising as being very well paid.

They do not imagine there could be anyone working in an ad agency and

earning less than the minimum wage.

So peripheral groups like people on creative placements can easily be


This is a very far-reaching piece of legislation that applies to all

workers, so it sweeps in people who are doing work experience.

The legislation refers to ’workers’ rather than employees, so the moment

they start doing anything that could be defined as work, they have to be

paid the minimum wage.

Certainly, there is a great deal of variety and some agencies are better

than others. Some are paying a good wage but some are just slipping

people pounds 50 at the end of the week. Now people have to be properly

rewarded and agencies that fail to do so will be breaking the law. As to

whether agencies will stop taking people on creative placements, that

depends on whether they regard it as a cost or an investment. For the

cost of buying another company car, they could be buying the future of

their creative input.

Jay Pond Jones

Executive creative director, Bates UK

We only take placements from college on two-week assignments. Other than

that, the legislation does not affect us as we don’t do creative

placements as such, although we will take people on job trials if we

have a job vacancy. They get paid the equivalent of a junior creative

team’s salary for the three months they are on trial. That way they can

focus on the work rather than having to struggle or worry about money. I

started out on a three-month trial with a job at the end, and I think

that’s the way it should be.

I welcome the introduction of the minimum wage and I think it’s right

that it should apply to creative placements. It should be illegal to

employ people for as little as some placements are paid.

I don’t understand how we can complain that clients don’t see us as

professional, or ask for fee-based remuneration, when we set that

example. It wouldn’t happen in any other department and it shouldn’t

happen in the creative department.

You cannot treat junior staff as slaves; it doesn’t send out the right

signal. We tell clients that they should value creativity but many

agencies out there are not practising what they preach.

Trevor Beattie

Executive creative director, TBWA GGT Simons Palmer

I don’t associate creative placements with the minimum wage. They are a

legal and tax minefield anyway - I think they are a necessary evil.

There is no other way that a team that has never worked in the industry

can get access to an agency and expose themselves. It harks back to the

apprenticeship idea. It is the only profession short of pop music where

you can be living in a bedsit one day and sitting in the Grosvenor House

being lavished with praise and champagne the next.

They do get hired - I have hired four ex-placement teams in the last

three years. I pay pounds 80 a week and that covers their expenses. I

could pay them more, but I don’t think payment is the issue. They are

doing it because they want to work in advertising. Lots of agencies do

work trials, but that limits the number of people you can expose to

agency life. I can have 40 people in a year and they will all get lots

of experience.

And if their work gets commissioned by the client, I pay them freelance


If we were forced to pay more, we would still have them. You owe it to

the business to develop young talent. Some people complain that you

train people up only to lose them to other agencies but if you lose them

it’s your own fault. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the fairest and

most sensible one we have.

Leon Jaume

Executive creative director, WCRS

We pay pounds 75 a week. We always have a creative placement team in and

we appoint a senior team to look after them. It’s all prepared well in

advance to make sure they get the most out of it.

There are extremes, and some agencies take the piss. We normally keep

people on placements for four weeks, but they have been known to stay

longer if we’ve been busy. When that happens and you just don’t have a

job for them, you do start to feel guilty. But I have heard some

terrible tales. I know one guy who has been on placement at another

agency, earning virtually nothing, for a year. It can be just a cynical

use of cheap labour.

It is all part of the business and virtually every creative in London

has been through it. I really don’t think money is the issue,


Most people working at the agency are very generous with their time and

if you are starting out, you are very grateful for that. I think every

agency should have people in.

The new legislation might affect smaller agencies with tighter


But I suppose, to be honest, if we had to pay more we would do, and it

wouldn’t affect the number of people we take. It is a benefit to them,

but it’s also a huge benefit to us. It keeps everyone at the agency on

their feet