October 12

The Silent Crisis in Advertising

I’ve spent decades in the advertising and media industry, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen colleagues—talented, passionate individuals—suffer from anything ranging from burnout to complete emotional and physical breakdowns. When NABS and Mind released their recent survey on mental health in our industry, I wasn’t surprised, but I was deeply alarmed. We’re at a tipping point, and it’s time for a heart-to-heart about the state of our collective wellbeing.

The Unspoken Reality

The numbers are more than just statistics; they’re a mirror reflecting the faces of people I’ve worked with – people who’ve sat next to me in meetings, shared late-night deadlines, and celebrated campaign launches. According to the survey:

64% have considered leaving this industry because it’s affecting their mental health.

36% have been struggling with poor or very poor mental health over the past year.

60% say their work has negatively impacted their wellbeing in the last 12 months.

These aren’t just numbers; they’re cries for help.

The Conversations We’re Not Having

What’s even more heart breaking is that 46% of us wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to our line managers about our mental health struggles. I’ve been there, feeling like I had to put on a brave face, even when I was coming apart at the seams. And it’s not just me; a staggering 33% feel that senior leadership doesn’t encourage a culture of wellbeing. How many of us look forward to those days when the boss is out of the office or better still on holiday for a few weeks. It’s amazing how productivity and well-being increases when toxic individuals take a break from making everyone else’s life as bleak as their own.

The Future at Risk

The survey also revealed that 77% of those struggling are under 40. We’re talking about the future leaders of this industry, the next wave of creativity and innovation, at risk of being lost to a culture that doesn’t support their mental health.

The Wake-Up Call

Diana Tickell from NABS and Emma Mamo from Mind have both stressed the urgency of the situation. We need to listen. We need to act. We need to care. Not just for the sake of our colleagues but for the future of an industry that thrives on the creativity and passion of its people.

The Path Forward: The SHEPARD Model

NABS has introduced the SHEPARD Model for Wellbeing, focusing on Satisfaction, Health, Emotions, Perceptions, Awareness, Rewards, and Diversity. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s up to us to make these more than just words on a page.

What We Must Do

Let’s talk: We need to break the silence. Open up the dialogue about mental health. Make it okay to say, “I’m not okay.”

Leadership, step up: If you’re in a leadership position, you have a responsibility to not just encourage but to model positive mental health practices. At least watch a Simon Sinek Ted Talk on leadership.

Resources and support: We need more than just a helpline. We need actionable resources, workshops, and policies that make mental health a priority.

The AI Factor: A New Layer of Pressure

As if the challenges we’re facing aren’t enough, the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our industry is adding another layer of complexity and pressure. On one hand, AI promises efficiency, automation, and data-driven insights that could revolutionise the way we work. But on the other hand, it’s causing anxiety about job security, skill relevance, and the loss of the ‘human touch’ in our creative endeavours.

I’ve seen colleagues fret about being replaced by algorithms, or stress over having to upskill rapidly to keep pace with machine learning and data analytics tools. This technological pressure exacerbates existing mental health issues, creating a cocktail of stressors that we’re not adequately addressing.

AI isn’t going away; it’s going to be an integral part of our industry’s future. But as we integrate these advanced technologies into our workflows, we must also advance our approach to employee wellbeing. We need to ensure that our teams are equipped not just with the technical skills to navigate this new landscape, but also with the emotional and psychological support to manage the stress that comes with it.

Final Thoughts

We’re at a crossroads. The mental health crisis in our industry is real, and it’s urgent. Add the complexities of AI into the mix, and it’s clear we’re facing challenges that require immediate and compassionate action. We owe it to ourselves, our colleagues, and the future of this industry to make mental health and wellbeing our top priority.

Let’s not wait for more surveys to tell us what we already know. Let’s act now, support each other, and build an industry culture that values the human behind the job title as much as the work they produce.

For more resources and support, visit Mind. It’s high time we take collective action, for the sake of our minds and the future of our industry.

I love this industry, but it’s time for a reality check. We can’t afford to lose one more colleague to the mental health crisis we’re facing. Let’s make wellbeing more than just a buzzword. Let’s make it our mission.

For more resources and support, visit Mind. Because it’s time we all mind our minds.