The Marketeer Association
It was a bumper attendance at the last meeting of The Marketeer Association at TheCircleClub on 12 September and, as always, the passion and subsequent debate about the association’s progress was as lively as ever.
Initially, John Ardern of The Really Useful Research Company outlined his proposal for the research he is now undertaking amongst the client population in the North of England. This aims to get a more accurate estimate of the amount of business being lost by Northern agencies and also to get a more realistic picture of how Northern agencies are perceived by clients.
After debate on what the research should encompass, the topic at the top of the agenda was education, training, staff retention and how the association can help to ensure that the best talent is encouraged to enter the industry in the North and not head to London.
Rob Jacobs of MDA Media says he recently encountered problems when trying to recruit graduates: “We actually advertised in the local colleges for graduates, in places like Stockport and Salford, but we only had three responses. We took one of the guys on and he is great. We went looking for local talent direct and got a very low response rate, which I think is very poor.”
Alison Ireland recently joined Like A River from confectionery manufacturer Leaf UK. She said: “I think the reason a lot of graduates go to London is because they have a better chance of getting a job. There are more agencies per square mile, therefore competition is greater and the turnover of staff is quicker.”
It is a problem everyone agreed upon. How can the industry in the North hope to attract big spending clients if it doesn’t recruit the very best talent available? If that talent is continually lost to London then clients will follow, as they want the best for their marketing pound.
Carl Hopkins of JDA believes that perceptions that London is the place to go after graduation are instilled at an early stage in the education process.
“I was brought up thinking I’d work in advertising as an art director in London, and I was even advised by lecturers how much I could expect to earn and it was all rubbish. There should be much closer ties between education and the industry. We should all open our doors to education, so that students can get in touch with the real world.”
Louise Muir of Like A River concurs: “I believe it’s critical for education and industry to form an open two-way link. We are already working on this. However, it would have more impact if it were done on a unified front. If design students have a real opportunity to get close to our industry and were made aware of the opportunities available then they would see that there is just as much on offer in the North as in London.”
MBD’s Gary Shaw agrees that work placements are a good way of forging links, but has some reservations. He says: “I think we need to put more value on work experience and graduate placements and not see them simply as cheap labour. If we want to stop talent moving to London one way to do that is by saying to students, if you come and work for us we will pay you a respectable salary. Then they will realise that we do value what they are doing.”
Jeff Edis of The Consult Group said that ultimately the industry in the North as a whole has to market itself to students and graduates in the North and beyond: “We have to make the industry a place where people want to work, then the best people will stay and both clients and agencies will benefit.”
John Ardern agreed that the services of the association’s members should be made available for students to learn from and discover that there is a vibrant industry in the North where they can make a name for themselves instead of disappearing in London. He said: “I would be prepared to give at least six days per year or something like that to go out and speak to students and young people about my area of expertise.”
Simon Farrell of The Chase suggested that if all association members were prepared to take on students then a development course could be put together which would allow students to get a taste of every marketing discipline.
Alistair Sim of LOVE added: “Everyone around this table should agree to take on a set number of placements per year. We should say to students, this is the range of companies you could get experience with. That is what they want, after all, a chance, and if we can give them that chance in the North then so much the better.”
Dale Hicks of the Cultural Industries Development Service (CIDS) concluded that if Manchester has one thing in abundance it is students thirsting for knowledge and experience: “Perhaps at the next meeting we should invite college lecturers to discuss whether such a scheme would be viable.”
The recruitment of talented people and their long-term retention is the key to a healthy industry. If the Marketeer Association can further links between industry and education then it was agreed this could only help the association’s overall objective of doubling revenues in the next decade.