Quality talent needs that spark: How All In will be different this year

Quality talent needs that spark: How All In will be different this year

Deeper questions around diversity and mental health will inform the updated version of the All-In Census in 2023 as the industry’s trade bodies aim to help advertising and media companies improve staff retention, writes the editor.


Not only will the marketing industries be keenly observing the results of the new All In Census, the initiative is attracting fans outside of media and advertising, too. It’s important to remember that no other established business sector runs such a comprehensive exercise in asking questions around diversity, inclusion, mental health and wellbeing at work in this way.

The Labour Party, which is riding high in the opinion polls the year before a likely UK general election, has actively looked at how the Census can be replicated on a wider scale. The banking and accounting sectors are also considering launching their own version of All In.

This time, there will be more questions probing why, for example, people from non-White backgrounds do not feel the industry is inclusive enough. There is also an expanded section on the impact on women of the menopause and for parents and carers, as well as more detailed questions about attitudes to hybrid working now that it has become standard practice across the industry.

The Advertising Association’s Talent Task Force, of which The Media Leader is a member, has also informed some of the questions that feature in the new Census.

Beware generalisations in a diverse industry

However, the answers we’re due to get in two months will have the potential for fascinating revelations about the attitudes to working in media and advertising beyond what people told the first Census in 2021.

For example, some media owners tell The Media Leader that there simply is no talent crisis, as far as they are concerned. The tech giants have been busy laying off people, while senior execs at the TV broadcasters have grumbled about being lumped in the same bucket as advertising agencies, where staff retention has been a long-running issue made worse by the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As for ad agencies, expect complaints about salary to be front and centre of the All In Summit in May. Some of the reasons for this are historic: agency pay has usually been lower paid at junior levels, but the tacit quid pro quo was getting to work somewhere ‘fun’ with creative projects and a solid grounding in marketing. But today’s increasingly specialised world of digital verticals and specialist channels, not to mention the rise of home-working, has bred an increased sense of alienation at work.

All In to push for change – no more excuses for action

And, of course, there is still a cost-of-living crisis squeezing out people at junior levels who aren’t independently wealthy. For all the good intentions that drive initiatives like All In, this gigantic societal issue is the biggest roadblock to having an industry that is truly diverse in culture and accommodating for people from different socio-economic backgrounds.

One-off salary bonuses, like those offered by Publicis Groupe last year, are welcome, but people need longer-term assurances than that (especially from a company whose UK operations are almost exclusively rooted in London, the most expensive place in the country to live).

In short, the biggest takeaway from the new Census may be that advertising and media is being thought of as ‘just another professional services sector’. Once the spark goes missing, it is difficult to recover, and pay will be the only thing keeping quality people in their jobs.

Omar Oakes is editor of The Media Leader. 100% Media 0% Nonsense is a weekly column about the state of media and advertising. Make sure you sign up to our our daily newsletter to get this column in your inbox every Monday.

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