Breaking down the gilded cage: the creative industry’s accessibility issue

Forget the top names and the big awards - in order for adland to thrive, it's time it let more talent in at the ground floor, writes The Hallway senior account director Chris Murphy.

The “talent drain”, “seller’s job market” and “the great resignation” portray a pretty grim picture of the creative industry’s current job market. In fact, the only seemingly-positive updates are the notable achievements of long-established Aussie titans of the industry and, ironically, stories about how they’re all now becoming consultants. 

But not much has been said about the other end of the industry. Specifically, the aspiring graduates wanting to start their careers in an agency.


According to a Universities Australia report, over 325,000 Australians graduated from University in 2020. While I may be proudly dyslexic and definitely no statistician, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this number is probably higher in the post-pandemic world of 2021. Solder this with the fact that we’re all still working from home clearly makes it damn hard for anyone looking to break into the industry at that level.

We’re brilliant at developing campaigns to market our clients’ products and services – in fact, we’re insanely proud of it, rant on about it, and splurge thousands on posh events with MCs that make one too many uncomfortable jokes, just to congratulate each other on our successes. Having spoken to a number of university students and recent industry entrants, I can safely say that what we’re not great at is proactively promoting our own industry as a viable career path, nor at investing properly in graduate talent acquisition and training them accordingly. 

There’s no reason our industry should not be alongside blue chip multinationals, government departments and private companies at university career fairs. We are getting there, with initiatives such as M&C Saatchi’s Sydney’s “Open House” program, but the most notable efforts are in fact being led by universities – a great example being the Advertising Capstone Challenge (ACC) where students work on real problems, with real clients, from real agencies, to get a proper taste of what it’s like to work in advertising, whilst still undergoing their studies.  

There might be a talent drain, but we have an ample workforce in Australia that can help shape the future of this industry for the better, to make it more sustainable, enjoyable and innovative.  

Our industry is a gilded cage and we need to break down the doors. We need to show young people that the creative industry is a viable option, one which offers vast learning opportunities and where a fulfilling career is achievable. 

So let’s divert our attention from the multinational agency CEO who talks about how they want long-term profitable client relationships (I mean… who doesn’t?) or the creative director demanding “bravery” after being awarded a Cannes Lions for something they briefly took part in. Let’s take a moment to think about the future of the industry and ask ourselves “Am I doing enough to inspire young people to join our industry?” The answer is, probably not. 

Chris Murphy is senior account director at The Hallway.


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