NEWS25 January 2023

Research highlights socio-economic barriers to advertising careers

Inclusion News Trends UK Youth

UK – Quantitative and qualitative research commissioned by advertising agency VCCP and member organisation Account Planning Group (APG) has highlighted the barriers to working-class young people in pursuing a career in advertising.

Young professionals-crop

Almost a fifth of young people ( 18%) surveyed reported that being unable to afford a move to London stops them from considering creative careers, with the figure increasing to a quarter in some regions, including the West Midlands, according to the survey of 2,000 16-24-year-olds in Britain.

The research found that just over a third ( 35%) of young people from working-class backgrounds outside London know somebody working in the creative sector, compared with over half ( 54%) of people from more advantaged backgrounds in London and the south-east.

The survey also asked questions on whether respondents could ‘see themselves forging a successful career’ in the creative industries, with 67% of those who knew someone in the sector stating that they could. Under half ( 44%) of those who said they do not know anyone in the industry stated that they could not see themselves forging a career in the sector.

The survey also found a lack of knowledge of what is required to work in advertising, with 27% of respondents stating that they do not believe they have the necessary skills or qualifications.

Additionally, less than a fifth ( 23 )% of ABC1 respondents from London and the south east could name a company in the creative sector, compared with 13% of those defined as being from regional working-class backgrounds.

The APG commissioned Focaldata to run a poll among a representative sample of 16-24-year-olds in Britain. Data was collected from a sample of 2,062 16-24-year-olds between 1st-8th November 2022, with data weighted by age, gender and region.

VCCP commissioned the research as part of its aims to increase diversity within the advertising agency. The study marks 15 months since the agency opened VCCP Stoke Academy, originally set up to raise awareness and offer training and work experience to young people in Stoke-on-Trent. In recent months, the hub has also developed into an office for VCCP, hosting six staff and four apprentices.

In addition to the survey, VCCP commissioned qualitative research from The Outsiders to run a programme of focus groups in Stoke and six other areas to understand how young people from working-class backgrounds felt about their potential to succeed in creative careers.

The qual found a perception among young people in working-class communities that people who work in the creative industry are ‘middle class, excessively ruthless and arrogant’.

Sarah Newman, director of the APG, said: “There are huge regional and socio-economic disparities which make brands and agencies impenetrable to excellent people disadvantaged by geography and a lack of industry know-how.

“We need to work harder in attracting the next generation of brilliant strategists, creatives and business leaders into our industry. This means big changes to the way we recruit, and how we welcome and support new talent as they join the industry. This will bring in new, much needed diversity of experience and thinking to benefit everyone.”

Michael Lee, chief strategy officer at the VCCP Partnership, said: “We’ve been concerned for some time about the increasingly narrow talent pool that we’re able to attract into an industry that we’re incredibly proud of. Great creativity has always relied on being able to draw on a diverse group of people. Right now, because of the increasing socio-economic barriers to entry, we’re in danger of becoming a monocultural profession.”

Lee added that VCCP has used the research findings to make changes to its entry level recruitment schemes.