Mission: talent

How to attract and retain the best talent in agencies

Like many other industries, communications agencies have had to continuously adapt over the past two years to help their clients succeed in this increasingly unpredictable world. To do so, they’ve relied on their best resource: their people. After all, talent is what makes agencies so efficient, productive, and innovative when it comes to strategy, creative, technology, media, and account services. 


The pandemic has exacerbated an important issue in our industry: qualified workers are scarce. This means that agencies must make sure their employees are content. Remote brainstorms, blurred lines between work and personal life, homeschooling… these are only a few of the ways the pandemic has increased our stress level. So how can we best focus on our top talent
The labour shortage affects every sector and every industry. Ours is no exception. The strength of agencies is that their employees can be trained on-site, in an environment where ideas and creativity can be exchanged. That’s why the past two years have been so hard—being there in person is such a big part of agency life. The industry must not only deal with this new reality, but also find ways to overcome the labour shortage. Agencies need to recruit the best candidates, but how? By expanding their talent pool, embracing diversity and becoming even more inclusive, by attracting young people to a career in communications, and by seeking out atypical profiles. But first and foremost, by retaining their current people. This can only be achieved by fostering an environment that allows their teams to remain motivated, happy and healthy
Agencies need to care for the exceptional talent they have and make sure they have the means to recruit additional resources. Talent is in such high demand for advertisers and related sectors that agencies are under mounting pressure. Increasing salaries, additional perks and benefits, workplace culture, training and mentorship, and managing new talent all contribute to significant financial and operational pressure. That’s why many adjustments are needed in 2022. 
To retain and attract the best talent, agencies need to offer employees excellent working conditions and an experience that meets their expectations. And clients also have a role to play. 
Here are four considerations that will become increasingly important in the transition to this new reality.  

Let’s talk money. 

Top talent comes at a price. It’s simple: the lack of skilled labour, the hike in inflation and increased competition in the job market means higher salaries. According to the A2C’s latest survey, several of our member agencies are planning to increase rates by 4 to 12% in 2022 to ensure they can maintain their quality of service. 
Professional fees have plateaued in the past several years. But agencies have doubled their creative output to support advertisers in their communications needs, all with increasingly smaller budgets. It’s high time to recognize the value of the services that agencies offer. Their experience, knowledge of the consumer, and diversity of skill sets allow agencies to provide impactful recommendations. An agency is not only a springboard for success, but it can also innovate and safeguard your brand. This added value must be recognized and compensated.  

More respect, please. 

In the past year, on average, agencies took part in 30% fewer selection processes and requests for proposals. Business practices must also evolve. Selection processes need to be simplified while remaining thorough. Agencies are becoming increasingly selective about which requests to respond to since these require a lot of energy. To attract the right partner, your process must be targeted and respectful of the time required from agencies. 
A pitch based on the agency’s qualifications (without speculative work) is enough to determine which team is best suited to take on your business challenges. Agencies must also be given sufficient time to submit their service offer, otherwise few will be interested. 
Furthermore, the “lowest bid” era is long gone. Requests for speculative work should also be relegated to the history books. It boils down to showing respect for the teams involved. They are under increased pressure to continue to provide services to their current clients while working remotely and dealing with all the other challenges related to the pandemic. 
The A2C offers a free support service for advertisers that has proven effective over the years. Feedback from those that have used it has been very positive. 

Productivity and empathy go hand in hand 

Being a business partner means investing in an agency-client relationship that is based on empathy, collaboration and mutual respect. The client-agency relationship is a key element in the employee experience. Everyone’s right to disconnect must be respected, and always being in emergency mode doesn’t necessarily lead to positive outcomes. The best clients help implement an open-minded, collaborative culture that generates better results for the brand. 
More time for better results. Many miracles have been performed in the industry over the past two years, and more will surely follow. But every situation shouldn’t require a miracle. Agency employees are only human beings after all. They get exhausted after “crunch” work sessions. Fatigue can put projects at risk and seriously hinder the quality of the deliverables. Creative teams need time to reflect on and fine-tune their recommendations. Without this precious commodity, your agency will most likely not be able to provide you with the most innovative, creative and impactful product. 

More responsible and impactful media plans 

Let’s continue to invest in local media. Even though half of most media budgets are dedicated to digital campaigns, most of this investment (86%) goes towards global platforms. Our own media reflects our languages, our culture and our way of life. They are more efficient, relevant, and necessary than ever. 
The objective of the Manifesto for responsible media practices is to double the share of digital budgets going to local media. This would mean that more than $200 million would be injected into Quebec’s local ecosystem every year, contributing to the health of our media and the creation of content made right here. 
Speak with your agency and let’s work together to ensure that media plans are both responsible and impactful. 
In closing, creative thinking makes brands more competitive, profitable, and resilient. This is a proven fact. A relationship of trust with a creative ally who is strategic and innovative provides the best return on investment for a company to excel when things are going well and adapt when they aren’t. Your agency can help you seize opportunities and come up with business solutions that generate value. And creating value is the engine to your growth and longevity. By prioritizing our people, their work-life balance, culture, and respect, we can keep creative, innovative talent in agencies. 


Dominique Villeneuve 

President and CEO

Association of Creative Communications Agencies