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Advertising jobs for Ukrainian refugees: what the industry is doing


By Ellen Ormesher | Senior Reporter

March 18, 2022 | 9 min read

The Advertising Association has launched a platform to help Ukrainian advertising professionals find employment in Europe. Holding companies are trying to find new roles for displaced staff. Here’s how an industry is trying to keep its Ukrainian talent in jobs.

Ukrainians cross the border to the EU

The Drum explores how adland is helping Ukrainian refugees find housing and employment / Image via Deposit Photos

As the war in Ukraine continues into its fourth week, the devastating scale of the crisis becomes ever more apparent, with some estimates suggesting that up to 2.5 million people have already been displaced.

In what the UN is calling the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II, various sectors are rallying behind the Ukrainian people in an attempt to find them employment and housing across Europe if they choose to leave their country behind.

However, due to Brexit, UK companies have had to take matters into their own hands, with major brands including M&S, Asos, Aldi and the Co-op all currently in discussions around how to open up jobs to Ukrainian refugees, as well as lobbying the UK government to fast-track their working visas.

Across the advertising and marketing industries, various schemes and initiatives are being adopted by holding companies and trade bodies alike in an attempt to support Ukrainian advertising professionals.

Here we outline what has been done so far, and explore some of the options available to agencies wondering what they can do to help.

Holding companies

A number of holding companies have explained to The Drum that supporting efforts by Ukrainian employees to leave the area has been a priority.

At Publicis, Annette King, chief executive of Publicis UK, says the group is in daily contact with “every one of our 350 colleagues who were based in Ukraine.”

“We’re providing security, accommodation, financial support and helping them with visas and paperwork. Colleagues from neighboring countries have been assisting our Ukrainian colleagues as they cross the border, providing guidance, transport and accommodation.”

And in the UK, King says it is looking into how it can help with housing, jobs and any “other types of support they’re going to need.”

Havas UK has helped 41 of its employees relocate to nearby nations – namely Poland, Germany and Latvia. But it also says it is committed to bringing as many to the UK as possible, funding their visa and relocations costs. “We are actively exploring this with the group centrally in order to facilitate this,” says a spokesperson.

WPP says it is also working with local leadership to provide financial and wellbeing support and job opportunities to its Ukrainian employees who have expressed a wish to live and work in other countries.

“As part of our WPP matching program, we will also be connecting our Ukrainian employees with UK colleagues who are planning to host refugees through the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme,” it said.

WPP said it is also working with the government’s coalition of businesses, set up by Emma Sinclair, on how it can offer refugees employment as they resettle in the UK.

Over at Omnicom, a spokesperson says it has helped 68 employees and their families reach safety through its supporting network in Ukraine’s neighboring countries; namely Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia and Estonia.

A spokesperson for the group adds: “We continue to provide support to those still trying to exit. In the short term that means providing transport, accommodation and medical support; and we are actively working on longer-term accommodation and employment options on a case-by-case basis.”

Despite the situation, they add that many employees have opted to remain in Kyiv and the focus has been on sending them supplies.

“Many markets in the Central and Eastern Europe region and further afield have organized collection and transportation of first aid kits, bedding, clothing, groceries and other items in short supply. One of the many examples is OMG Germany contributing 40 tons of relief goods to the Ukraine border, coordinated by staff who volunteered,” they say.

Omnicom’s local agency network TBWA/Ukraine says leadership has remained in constant contact with its managing director, who is currently located in the western part of Ukraine and is in touch with the rest of its 40-person team who have made it to Poland.

Omnicom and IPG both say they have been surpporting staff as they relocate, including housing and financial and medical assistance.

IPG says several of its agencies in Eastern Europe have opened their doors to anyone fleeing the crisis, so that they have a place to work. “Our teams are also working on the logistics required for refugees to access housing and medical services,” IPG adds.

The Advertising Association is boosting the efforts of The Polish National Association SAR, which has created a job platform called in collaboration with the Ukrainian National Association.

The platform will connect Ukrainian advertising professionals with employers from other European countries. Immediate UK job vacancies can be advertised on a remote basis while the UK Government is currently regulating the status for Ukrainians arriving in the UK.

A spokesperson from the AA tells The Drum that its key aims as an industry body are to provide a central source of information to government about the industry’s response to Ukraine, provide a central source of guidance from government to our industry about how it can help and gather the widest range of examples of support that the industry is providing, including the latest fundraising efforts.

The AA says that it’s seeing an increase in the industry’s fundraising efforts, with brands, agencies and media owners collaborating to raise funds for people in Ukraine.

“We’re seeing this through the likes of ITV and M&S working together, through the radio industry providing thousands of spots for the Disaster Recovery Fund and countless more examples across newsbrands, magazines, social media platforms – all of which we’re looking to record and share via our Ukraine hub.”

School of Marketing

The School of Marketing offers a number of training opportunities and apprenticeships that will allow Ukrainians to upskill while they claim refugee status.

Refugee status means Ukrainians hoping to work in advertising and marketing don’t have to wait three years before they are eligible for funding, as with standard immigration rules, enabling them to commence a job in marketing and upskill within weeks of coming to the UK.

Similarly, for employers who wish to take on a Ukrainian or any other refugee, accessing an apprenticeship fund means they can also upskill them while they work.

Hire for Ukraine

The Hire for Ukraine site was set up by Petr Novikov, a co-founder of online startup Apt Buildings and former engineering manager for Airbnb, and his brother Fed Novikov, who is the COO of Apt. It has more than 600 recruiters on the system and covers a range of industries beyond advertising and marketing. It has seen 1,000 people sign up looking for roles.

UA Talents

UA Talents is a German job platform for displaced persons from and within Ukraine. Like Hire for Ukraine, it is serving job hunters and recruiters across a variety of sectors. Companies from all over Europe can advertise their job openings to people from Ukraine who have lost their employment due to the conflict.

E!creative/ є!Креатив

є!Креатив or E!Creative in English is a collaboration by creatives for creatives. The platform simplifies the scoping selection and collaboration with creatives. ElloWorks by Talenthouse will take no commission from the projects, with 100% of the fee going directly to the creatives. Brands, startups, agencies, as well as Ukrainian creatives are invited to sign up.

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