On Tuesday, B&T published a piece by industry satirist and anonymous adland employee “Roy Morgan” (read it here) that savaged the industry’s long hours and poor pay for Gen Y employees. The controversial piece came as an open letter to “industry leaders”. Here, industry leader and MediaCom CEO, Willie Pang, offers Mr Morgan this riposte…
I was taught from a young age to lead from the front, so here I am.
You have my attention. Not because I was angered by your plea but because I want to let you know that I spend every day working to try to solve it. You know that (sometimes clichéd) question, “what keeps you up at night?”, well, this is at the top of the list.
I won’t speak on behalf of all the leaders across the industry but I have enough friendships with my chief executive colleagues across the landscape to share a somewhat informed collective view. In short conversations over the last 24 hours, I’ve received a fascinating mix of reactions to your letter. It’s been a stark contrast dependent on levels and demographics but my personal view is that you are voicing a concern that is more pervasive (at every level) than we are brave enough to acknowledge publicly.
Firstly, let’s start with the truths. I’m also over seeing the smart ones go. I’m also over seeing the hardest working ones get rewarded with, ironically, more work. I’m over asking team members if they are ready to go home at 9pm and I’m over protracted weekend email exchanges, dragging colleagues away from the things and people that matter most to them. I am tired of seeing health issues and broken marriages. It’s our job to create an environment that is safe, provides encouragement and space for people to live the best version of their lives.
We too, as your leaders, deeply wish that everyone in the business could love their job, do it with joy and can be at peace with the outcome. We want you to do great work, have pride in what you deliver and feel comfortable sharing your fears.
We’re fighting. More than you know. Much more. We’re sitting in board meetings, working on business cases, finding new ways to invest and working with clients to grow our value. We know that the most valuable asset is our people, irrespective of level and experience. We’re alive to the fact that you’re stretched and sometimes, it hurts but know that we hurt together. The analogy that I sometimes give is that the rubber band is going white in the middle and it isn’t sustainable. Please know that we aren’t sitting still. It might feel like you’re alone, but we’re in it with you.
You’re right. This is business, but it’s not just the media industry. The reality is that everyone is striving to hit a number, deliver returns to shareholders and convince investors that we are, you are, worth investing in. It’s not easy but I’m confident that we’re focused on the right areas to make it better. Together, we need to find ways to automate the menial stuff and free you up to think. We need to do the basics cheaper, faster and better. We need to transform and move up the value chain. We need to be indispensable, demonstrated through our smarts and creativity. If we don’t, we’ll be an outsourced body shop. I’m not interested in that.
The only path is growth. Sustainable growth. We need to work with clients that are aligned with our aspirations and values. In my business, we’ve parted ways with clients that don’t share our belief in “people first”. To be candid, this is the exception, not the norm. Yes, clients can sometimes be demanding but I’ve also experienced incredible empathy and grace. Great clients respect our need to make money and invest in your development. In my experience, this is almost always a key topic of discussion.
Our young people are our future. We don’t want to breed a culture of “survival of the fittest”. We’ll leave that to the accounting firms. We want to have an open, honest conversation about how we can work together to create solutions. You don’t need to be granted permission. Put your crazy idea on the table. Bring your entrepreneurial spirit. Ask for the context. Great leaders will recognise that they can’t do it all themselves and will know that the future can’t be created in a leadership vacuum.
Your leaders are here to serve you. Not the other way round. So in response to your question “what is the life of an advertising person worth?”, the answer is: everything.