Getting a first job, and a break, into the world of agency advertising and marketing is proving increasingly difficult for fresh graduates, and doesn't look to be improving any time soon. According to Aquent - a global recruitment agency whose division Vitamin T focuses on the creative industry - the data they are delivering in their new 2021 salary guide is not promising.
The number of planned junior hires dropping 29% in 2020. Layoffs have made news - for example, Accenture Interactive-owned Droga5 confirmed it cut 7 percent of its U.S. staff, while Wieden+Kennedy (which had been on a massive growth spurt) abruptly announced 11% global layoffs in July.
Aquent's UK division said the industry was experiencing a “junior job market crisis”, with the number of junior hires falling 29% compared to 2019.
Where the Jobs Aren't
Economic uncertainty is rarely a friend to advertisers. Small and large agencies alike have endured cuts of varying size since the crisis began. In the past few months, WPP, McCann, VaynerMedia, R/GA, Omnicom Group, MullenLowe, Giant Spoon and others have reportedly either laid off or furloughed employees. Advertising agencies accounted for more than half of all reported layoffs as of May, according to Forrester, while digital and media agencies were less affected—partially thanks to their accelerated focus on digital media. Overall, Forrest projects overall media spend will decline by 23% through 2020.
Even before the Covid-19 crisis, brand marketers were increasingly looking to bring some marketing functions internally. According to a report published back in February by WARC and MediaLink, around 30% of marketers surveyed last fall said they manage ad-tech and programmatic buying in-house while 38% reported still using media agencies and 17% had a hybrid model. However, 34% said they planned on bringing more in-house this year while 53% said they had no plans to change and 13% expected to outsource more.
Ripples in the Water
Any slowdown in recruitment is likely to filter through to all corners of the job market in time if allowed to continue unchecked, warns Aliza Sweiry, UK managing director at Aquent.
Sweiry adds: “This year has been extremely tough for the creative industries as Covid-19 continues to have a huge impact on business. Unfortunately, this has been felt most severely by junior talent looking to make their mark on the industry, who are now really struggling to find entry level positions.
“Unless companies begin hiring junior roles again soon, it’s likely that this could have a serious knock-on to the future of team structures in the years to come.“
The failure to embrace new talent could prove devastating for broader efforts by the advertising industry to engage younger, more diverse recruits. As talent continues to seek work, it may shift into other industries and dry up a critical skill-set pool. The brands themselves have been struggling with junior talent even pre-crisis, with IPA research finding that 53% of students and recent graduates were unable to identify a single agency by name.
Agency headcount might not return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Forrester. And with an overall decline of 13.5%, it could hinder CMOs as they try to navigate increasingly complex marketing challenges.
Bright Side (of a Sort)
An area of salary growth in most roles and levels is user experience, with a UX strategist or lead now able to expect a salary of £100,000 in the UK– up 21% year on year – while a junior UX designer can expect £45,000, up 17%.
Aquent said the increases for UX roles reflected a growing demand for these skills as a result of this year’s surge in ecommerce and time spent in digital environments. It added that health writers had also become “hot property” as a result of the growing interest in public health prompted by the pandemic.
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