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Hermaneutics: Jobs For Monkeys In Adland

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The advertising industry in focus from the editor of marketing, advertising, media and design site By Herman Manson (@marklives)


Young and want to land a job in advertising? Join a circus. That is the gist of reader feedback on an story featuring a recruitment campaign by DDB Brussels in which prospective employees need to submit a 6-second Vine gif (hashtag #ddbexpress) in place of a CV.


Ten ‘new’ creatives will make the shortlist and be put together on a train to Cannes. En-route they will need to solve numerous creative briefs, on which they will be judged, and eight will be sent home (dropped off at the various stations en-route – apparently). The two that make it to Cannes will be ‘rewarded by an invitation to join the creative department of DDB.’ That’s not exactly an explicit job offer, hence some of the commentary on the original story referring to internships.


The campaign has been described as a rather demeaning process to land a job. Critics also point out that to enter you need Vine, which only runs on iPhones, and so excludes a fairly large group of potential candidates, including many for whom an iPhone would be out of reach.


Says the Facebook site created for the campaign “Creative Directors are very busy people, and new creatives need to be agile. Combine those two and you get our brand new way of hiring: 6″ recruitment. You have exactly six seconds to convince our Creative Director, Peter Ampe.”


Not too busy to make the train ride and make some kids jump through hoops, or to make the awards festival for that matter, just too busy to look down and at your portfolio. The agency seems to be snorting Cannes, really, counting the award shows they can enter with this ‘creatively lead’ take on recruitment.


“This is like recruiting juniors to act as monkeys for entertainment,” commented one anonymous fella. Indeed. Dumb and dumberer as popular culture has become – recruitment as entertainment does seem to push the boat out quite far.


Talking of recruitment practices in adland – an interesting survey came out of Australia recently where trade magazine B&T found that more than 40% of interns in the media, marketing, PR and advertising industries feel they have been exploited. Many internships remain unpaid, and many interns landed up with tasks ranging from cleaning cupboards to handling deliveries.


“Working for free also appears to have become a rite of passage for job-seekers in advertising, PR, media, marketing and digital, with some believing the ‘industry has adopted an attitude that unpaid work should be mandatory’”, reports B&T. Only 26.8% of interns were paid for their time and tellingly fewer unpaid interns received offers of employment than did those in paid internships. This makes sense – if a business makes a financial investment, they are more likely to take a closer interest in said investment.


Critics of paid internships were quick to point out that ‘you shouldn’t be paid to learn’ but the fact remains that what a lot of interns do is work with demonstrable value for businesses. So they are not simply learning – they are delivering something with a monetary value.


In the UK the industry body for the PR industry, the PRCA, launched a campaign as far back as 2011 to end the practice of unpaid internships.


“The short-term benefits of free labour are greatly outweighed by the way that this practice devalues our expertise and reputation. It is unfair to ask young people to work for free, just so that in the short term organisations can benefit financially,” says the PRCA.


As employers more commonly demand not only a higher education but also work experience, and the most common reason for not taking an internship was an inability to afford them (75% of interns require financial assistance, usually from parents), it follows that a large number of potential talent is lost to the industry.


As one contributor to the PRCA intern guideline puts it: “we will find it much harder to communicate to our publics if our industry solely consists of white middle class people from London and the Home Counties.” Ahem. Chew on that.


The opinions expressed in this column are by the author and do not necessarily represent those of 10and5. 


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