Campaign Survey: Ad Industry Morale Down 36 Percent From Last Year

By Erik Oster 

Campaign U.S. released the results of its Second Annual Morale Survey today, most of which are pretty bleak.

The number of respondents claiming to have “low” morale (31%) or “dangerously low” morale (16%) went up about 36 percent from last year, when 26% said their morale was “low” and just 8% “dangerously low.” Of those employees with low morale, some 63 percent claimed to be actively hunting for new jobs.

“These findings are sobering, but—sadly—not surprising,” Campaign U.S. editor-in-chief Douglas Quenqua said. “Conversations with people at all levels of the industry reveal widespread frustration and even despondency about the industry and their own jobs. But seeing the numbers really crystallizes how serious an issue this is for advertising, particularly as it fights with other industries for tech and creative talent.”

The reasons given for that low morale are nothing surprising, and they haven’t changed over the past year. Top of the list is company leadership at 73 percent (we’re guessing a few of our readers can relate). Other top factors included “lack of advancement” at 45% and “dissatisfaction with work” at 38%. Lowest on the list of factors for low morale was “lack of diversity” at 13% (a point lower than “company performance”), but that can likely be attributed to the issue disproportionately affecting a small number of employees. We’re fairly sure that not too many people who aren’t named Kevin Roberts would argue that the industry doesn’t have a diversity problem, at least in public. The top reasons given by those with good morale included “work/life balance” (topping the list at 62%), “satisfaction with work” (49%) and “creative freedom” (44%).

Campaign also allowed respondents to submit their own reasons for their good or bad morale. One black media agency employee bluntly called out the industry’s discrimination issues, saying, “The American advertising industry is racist as fuck.”

A woman at a creative agency pointed to the industry’s gender equality problems, attributing her low morale to “Knowing that some men who report to me make more money than I do,” while another pointed to the “Toxic culture, ego driven, boys club.”

Other responses included attributing bad morale to “sociopathic partners,” rising client expectations, “lack of vision” from leadership, lack of job security, age discrimination and a “Discrepancy between job description and actual duties.”

In other words, it’s business as usual. But more so.