‘We need to do more’: Ad Association launches task force amid talent crisis

The AA has announced the latest steps in its bid to address systemic issues within the advertising and marketing industries

The Advertising Association (AA) has announced the launch of a task force, which will review the industry’s strategy to attract and retain talent.

Stephen Woodford, the association’s chief exec, said he is “​​acutely aware that there is much more we need to do to be truly inclusive and competitive versus other industries to attract and retain the most talented people.”

The Talent Task Force has been formed due to an increased demand for advertising and marketing services in the UK, which the AA says combined with inflationary pressures on salaries and talent shortages has increased stress for workers at every level across the industry.

President and top marketer for Tesco, Alessandra Bellini, said: “From the moment I joined the association last autumn, talent retention has come up time and time again as a common challenge we are all facing.”

The task force will review the industry’s strategy to attract and retain the best talent and understand how the advertising workforce can better represent the diversity of its audience.

It will be aligned with the work of All In, the association’s DE&I census, which provides data and insights on the systemic changes required in the industry to retain talent through a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

The All In initiative identified disparities among key groups of talent in the advertising industry in its census last year, including insights that a significant number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds expressed a wish to leave the industry over lack of inclusion.

What will the task force assess?

  • The macro-economic picture for UK advertising – how the UK advertising and marketing services industry fares versus other industries in the UK job market.

  • A cross-industry analysis – looking at the challenges within advertising and marketing services across brands, agencies, media owners and tech companies to develop and retain the skills needed.

  • The hearts and minds of industry professionals – a combination of qualitative and quantitative research studies to better understand what is driving job satisfaction.

The AA says it will also work to raise government awareness about the value and importance of supporting and investing in the practical skills training provided by industry trade bodies and professional associations.

The bid coincides with further attempts to improve the experience and representation of female, Asian and older talent within the industry, as outlined in the latest stages of the AA’s All In action plan.

What are the new areas for action?

  • Improve the experience and representation of women. Companies are asked to implement the Flexible First checklist. All In census data found that 10 times more women than men believed parental leave negatively impacted their career progression (53% of women versus 5% of men). Women were six times more likely to be personally discriminated against because of their gender.

  • Improve the experience and representation of Asian talent. Companies are asked to use the guide on the AA’s website developed by the All In Asian Working Group. All In’s research found that 27% of Asian respondents reported they are likely to leave the industry due to a lack of inclusion and/or discrimination experienced.

  • Improve the experience and representation of older talent. Companies are asked to implement All In’s Shared Experiences policy. Only 4% of respondents were aged 55-64, compared to 17% of the UK working population. 43% of that bracket reported they feel age limits in their career.

The third phase of the action plan is set to be revealed in the spring to mark the first anniversary of the All In census, with the final three actions covering LGBTQ+ people, mental health and physical disability.