Exploitation rife in adland, B&T study finds

Exploitation rife in adland, B&T study finds

More than 40% of interns in the media, marketing, PR and advertising industries feel they have been exploited, B&T research has revealed.

Of the 300-plus people who took part in B&T’s survey, ‘Adland: An intern’s perspective’, 43% said their unpaid internships were more valuable to the employer.

Many survey participants spoke about being handed jobs that failed to develop their skills such as dull admin-tasks, cleaning out storage cupboards and updating contact lists.

“I feel like the employers take advantage of inexperienced students or recent graduates with unpaid internships. It is just an excuse to get someone working for free for them,” one survey respondent said.

“My first unpaid internship was extremely exploitive. They continually promised better opportunities for me, but made me do boring mundane jobs, such as helping them create their Christmas presents and deliver to companies,” said another who has performed unpaid internships in marketing and PR.

Working for free also appears to have become a rite of passage for job-seekers in advertising, PR, media, marketing and digital, with some believing the “industry has adopted an attitude that unpaid work should be mandatory”.

Just over 73% of the survey participants said they have worked for free across those aforementioned areas.

Only 26.8% were paid for their time.

From an unpaid intern’s perspective the benefits of their placements included gaining a better understanding of the industry (85.52%) and a chance to practice and acquire new skills for 72.33%, among others.

Only 4.4% said their unpaid placements had no benefits or advantages.

While a large percentage of survey participants said businesses stood to gain the most from free workers, 57% said their unpaid placements were more valuable to themselves than their employers.

That figure increased to 61% for those who had been paid during their internships or work experience leaving 38% who felt the business gained the most from their time.

There were calls for the industry to develop a mandated stipend for any work over two weeks and many believe interns’ travel expenses and lunch costs should be covered.

However there were those who felt interns should not be paid.

“I believe you shouldn’t be paid to learn. If paying young people to learn was the case I would consider pulling our internship program,” said one person who went on to add that covering travel and lunch expenses is a “nicety and should not be mandatory”.

Someone else was extremely opposed to the idea interns should be paid: “There should be more unpaid internships in our industry because it weeds out all the dickheads who just want to wear square rimmed glasses, read Monster Children and tell people they’re a ‘designer’ or worse ‘art director’.”

“Kids that whinge about working for free in an internship context should suck it up and quit being such pathetic little bitches. That’s my word.”

Is unpaid work exploitative or a rite of passage in the industry? Leave your comments below.


See the April 26 issue of B&T Magazine for a more in-depth look at our findings in the feature: ‘The thin line between experience and exploitation’.

We will also be releasing industry specific data over the coming week in our Inside series of newsletters, including Inside Creative and Inside Media.

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