ANA Warns of a ‘Talent Crisis’ as the Ad Industry Struggles to Appeal to College Grads

Agencies and marketers need a new way to recruit and retain

Advertising is not an attractive industry for college students.
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A new study from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that the advertising industry is facing a “looming marketing and advertising talent crisis.”

The study, entitled “Bridging the Talent Disconnect: Charting the Pathways to Future Growth,” was funded by the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF) and conducted by market research company GfK. It surveyed marketing leaders, academics and students/new hires to arrive at its conclusions. Among the findings were that college students were unsure what a career in advertising and marketing entailed and whether it represented work they deemed “meaningful.”

The report found that this talent disconnect is “particularly acute in the lack of diversity throughout the industries examined in the report.”

“Finding and retaining talent has been a serious problem in our industry for some time. But this pioneering new study has revealed that the system to create our next generation of marketing and advertising talent is strained to a breaking point,” ANA CEO Bob Liodice said in a statement. “Immediate action is required, and the AEF has developed the necessary steps to address this critical issue by bridging the gap between the core constituents.”

“Our next generation of talent will be the single most important driver of industry growth,” added AEF president-CEO Gord McLean. “Marketers and agencies must take the lead, but we know from experience that whenever we get together with the academic community the most important players – the students themselves – benefit.”

The report cited four key reasons for the disconnect between advertising agencies and marketers, academics and students: the digital transformation of the ad industry, increased competition from tech companies, “differing generational expectations of work environment, job responsibilities and career advancement,” and academic curricula not keeping pace with the rapid changes in the industry.

The ANA and AEF issued a call to action for agencies and marketers to partner with educators to address these concerns, a collection of initiatives known as Pathways 2020. Pathways 2020 includes industry campus visits and an expanded “Visiting Professors” program, as well as “formal, ‘accredited’ guidelines and best practices for internship experiences.”

McLean added that AEF will partner with ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive & Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), which launched last October, to ensure that “diversity will inform every aspect of Pathways 2020 program development.”