The Media Industry Talent Crisis

The conversation around a talent crisis in the media industry — and the marketing industry itself — has been bubbling for a long time now. But the issue has been heightened in the pandemic, with the end of 2021 resulting in the Great Resignation. In the media industry specifically, major organizations like Roku and Google ended the year with hundreds of job openings to be filled. So, what is it that is keeping young talent from entering into and veteran talent from remaining in the media industry, and what are some potential solutions to this problem? A panel of leaders from various disciplines within media convened to discuss these questions and more.

Key Takeaways

To begin uncovering some potential solutions to media's talent crisis, the panel discussed a handful of key questions related to the problem. You can find some of those key questions, as well as a summary of the panel's thoughts below:

What is the next generation of talent craving that the media industry is not offering?

Kathleen Saxton believes one of the key issues here is the perception that the media industry does not offer the type of work flexibility that young people want. To address this, Saxton and other panelists agreed media marketers must learn how to show young people that, in the media industry, they're being offered a career, not just a job. Part of this entails offering young talent a seat at the table with decision-makers if for no other reason than to listen and learn. This will assist in helping young talent feel engaged, valued, and like they're being offered a path forward in their careers. Industry leaders should also encourage young people to move between jobs within the marketing industry. The most important thing is keeping top talent in the industry, not necessarily at one company.

Where should the media and marketing industry focus its efforts to recruit more talent and retain it?

Efforts to sell a job working in media as a valuable career choice should begin at the college or university level. However, opportunities for further learning need to be present throughout the career cycle for the industry to continue to engage talent. Once the industry has successfully recruited talented individuals, organizations must continue to offer them the opportunity to expand their knowledge base or skill set through regular investments in training. This again heightens talented individuals' feelings of being valued, no matter where they are in their career journeys.

Is it time to explore other models of staffing and management on the agency side to stem the tide of extreme turnover?

The agency side of the marketplace especially needs to re-evaluate the level of flexibility it offers individuals. This does not just refer to the ability to work from home or to take a day off when needed, but also to cultivating the perception that there is flexibility within a media career path. This again relates to broadening how the industry trains people and offering them more access to things that will expand their skill set and knowledge base.

Q&A with Dana Bhargava, head of experience, planning, and media at Sanofi Consumer Health; Kathleen Saxton, managing director of strategic advisory at EMEA and global talent leader at MediaLink; Michael Law, CEO at Carat U.S.

Q. What is your No. 1 wish for the media industry and how are we going to get there?

Dana Bhargava: I want to bring the fun back. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. When I entered into this industry, there was an authenticity to leadership that seems to be missing today. I remember being at my first job belting out show tunes with our media leader. That was authentic leadership and that seems to be missing, both on the client side and on the agency side.

Kathleen Saxton: I believe in the currency of favors. Do people favors, pass that on, help people out. Allow people to access your connections to help them. And if you're looking for a mentor, you must go as senior as you can.

Michael Law: As leaders, we can't push down the stress that we're feeling. We can't push down the opportunity that's there. Encourage your people to go out and be courageous about things like presenting ideas to clients without retribution. We need to be more nurturing in that way.

Q. How do we combat agency talent feeling burnout from demanding clients, unrealistic deadlines, and long hours? Additionally, how can clients be a better partner to agency staff?

Bhargava: I agree, for sure, that we can be better clients and that's a start. In a world of immediate gratification, I don't know that we as clients are doing enough to present realistic timelines or understand how long certain asks can take. There's a responsibility as clients to be clear about having realistic deadlines and timelines and also being sure to acknowledge the hard work that is being done.

Law: I think there is a need for more honesty and transparency. For example, on the agency side, when an ask comes in, we may need to say, "We have five other asks to handle right now, as well. Where does this fit in the priority order?" Let's work together to establish those lines of communication. Managing expectations can go a long way toward solving these problems.

Q. Do you see a diversity talent gap and how are you approaching closing that gap?

Saxton: Absolutely we see it and we have a duty to do something about that. Our actions have to be intentional and make sure we are actively looking for talent in all diverse spaces. We have to find ways to accelerate some of these individuals, as well. We cannot wait ten years for the diversity issue to work out. We have to be smart and innovative in working intentionally to solve it now.


"The Media Industry Talent Crisis." Nadine Karp McHugh, managing director of global media at Goldman Sachs; Dana Bhargava, head of experience, planning, and media at Sanofi Consumer Health; Kathleen Saxton, managing director of strategic advisory at EMEA and global talent leader at MediaLink; Michael Law, CEO at Carat U.S. 2022 ANA Media Conference, 3/4/22.

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