A lot is being written lately about the exodus of senior creative talent from agencies. Highly- paid, award-winning creative directors who have made it to the top of the agency heap are walking away from their corner offices and annual, expense paid trips to the Cannes Advertising Festival. Some have departed to begin small, consultancy- type enterprises focused on working for clients on a more flexible, project basis. A few of them have left the agency world entirely and gone to work for entertainment and video game companies. Others simply have decided that they just aren’t having any fun anymore and want to step back and rethink their work lives.
Burnout has always been a factor in our business. But it seems to be more prevalent now than ever. And it’s happening to people at a younger age. Back in the day, i.e. before the digital revolution, the top people stuck around and were productive well past their 60th birthdays. Today’s escapees are almost all in their early to mid-40s. So what does this trend mean for the advertising industry? For one thing, it means the business is losing many of its most talented creative people at a time when we need creativity more than ever.
We’re losing people at the top. And because of cutbacks due to the economy, we’re bringing in fewer and fewer new people at the bottom – young creative thinkers who should be developing into the leaders of tomorrow. This doesn’t bode well for the future of the business. Without a continual stream of fresh talent, where will the new ideas come from?
Advertising has long been losing the battle for the best and the brightest to the likes of Wall Street, the Silicon Valley and client side opportunities. We’re caught in a perfect storm of destructive conditions: a lack of the best thinkers being attracted to the business in the first place, a paucity of openings for the beginners who want to be in advertising and senior creative talent who are throwing in the towel. It’s ironic that thanks to the success of the brilliant series “Mad Men,” advertising is getting more attention than it has in years. Yet, at the same time, the business is struggling like never before.