Creative Talent Seeks Renewed Purpose Amid Upheaval


The past year was disheartening for many who work in creative businesses, whether it was rounds of layoffs across industries or renewed fears over AI taking over jobs. But it was noteworthy that the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2023 report ranked creative thinking as the second most in-demand skill for workers, above attributes like technical literacy.

Creativity remains valuable to businesses, yet the creative thinkers within them are facing a perfect storm of pressures going into 2024—economic uncertainty, political turmoil, international conflicts and shifting workplace models.

Multiple surveys have revealed tension in the workforce. For example, recent data from staffing firm WorkReduce found that 46% of ad industry employees are at risk of burnout. A growing number of advertising workers are interested in leaving their jobs, with 51% of survey respondents saying they are planning to look for new roles in the next year—compared to 36% of employees across industries. 

Against this backdrop, many creative leaders are grappling with how to better recruit, retain and motivate talent—and thus remain competitive businesses as the industry evolves.  

“There’s a sense in the wider industry that we’re people without a mission,” said Oriel Davis-Lyons, chief creative officer of Mother New York. “We’ve not been able as an industry to reassert the greater purpose that we’re here to achieve and get people excited about that.” 

An individualistic approach

A force at play in the ongoing talent crisis is younger generations’ shifting expectations of the workplace and career development. “Gen Z are even less committed to a long-term career path than previous generations,” noted Marques Gartrell, CCO of Wieden+Kennedy (W+K) New York.

Charlene Chandrasekaran, executive creative director of London agency The Or, observed among many peers a frustration “with certain aspects of advertising,” such as top-down management and a lack of work-life balance, that is informing her style of leadership as she builds a creative department. 

“Talent are looking for more than just making great work—they’re looking for people who respect them and have their back,” she explained, adding that she and co-ecd Dan Morris aim to “instill a sense of deeper trust” between employees and leadership. 

“We try to create a space where you can say what’s on your mind. The worst thing agencies can do is take that level of trust for granted,” she said. 

With the risk of creatives burning out or dropping out of the industry altogether, leaders need to take a more “individualistic” approach to nurturing talent, said Annie Chiu, ecd at Amsterdam agency Soursop and former creative director at TBWA\Neboko. While time pressures can mean managers often overlook mentoring staff, they “will need to spend time with each different creative, tapping into what matters to this person and what will make them want to come into the office and give that extra 10%.”

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