Editorial: Adland can climb out of a 'jam' if it keeps its talent

If there is one optimistic message that the global communications industry can take from the latest sets of financial results and economic predictions, it is that there is the prospect of jam tomorrow. With at least two of the marketing supergroups still dragging themselves out of sticky patches, this is probably the most that can be reasonably expected.

The best Interpublic can say is that its losses are not as bad as they used to be, while the performance of Havas - its new business down by $100 million from a similar period last year - has been flat in its key North American market.

So the feelgood factor remains elusive, but there are some promising indications that the lid is coming off the conserve.

Despite its problems, IPG saw organic revenue grow by 1.6 per cent thanks to higher client spends and new-business wins, while Havas' performance has begun to more closely match that of its Publicis Groupe rival.

Last month, the IPA Bellwether Report suggested first-quarter marketing spend in the UK was rising at the fastest rate for three years. Last week, WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell, adland's soothsayer-in-chief, added to the optimism. He predicts that this year will be better than last for the business "if we do the job right". And whether or not the job is done right will have a lot to do with how successful the industry is in locking in its best people and expanding its talent pool. This will be the conundrum for holding companies that have to balance the need to attract the creative entrepreneurs that are its lifeblood with the need to control costs.

Nor is the problem aided by a new accounting rule that applies to UK-listed marketing services companies, which compels them to charge against profits the benefit(s) provided to staff under share incentive schemes.

But there is evidence that fat salaries and generous perks are not necessarily buying staff loyalty. A survey by Nabs, mostly among senior and middle agency managers, finds that the reason why many are staying longer in their jobs is just as likely to be because they enjoy the buzz and the adrenalin rush that goes with it. If that's true, then the answer to the industry's perpetual question about where all the talent has gone is simple and ironic. It has got better at keeping it.

Topics