Are you better educated than your boss?

By AdNews | 11 September 2018

For the report ‘Popping the adland diversity bubble’, AdNews and Magic Beans came together to analyse data from an AdNews reader survey and unearthed several surprising results.

For instance, when we asked you about your education, you told us that a third of you went to a private school, which is high compared to just 19% of the rest of the population. And compared to 21% of other Aussies, over half of you also have a tertiary qualification.

That is, unless you’re a CEO.

We were quite surprised to discover that while formal tertiary education is almost mandatory for entry level adland roles today, around 25% of middle-aged adland CEOs never went to Uni. We even confirmed our analysis with a follow-up search of the top 20 Australian adland CEOs on LinkedIn.

This figure is especially surprising when you compare it to chiefs across the global economy – for example, 100% of Fortune 100 CEOs have a degree.

So, what does this mean for us and our industry? We came to three conclusions.

1. The University of Life

It reveals a fascinating reality for advertising employees.

Namely that a quarter of us are being led by street fighting business ninjas, who’ve graduated from the university of life and have carved a niche for themselves despite the adland stereotype. And with only 21% of the wider population holding a bachelor degree, our CEOs are in good company.

Having said that, their experience differs from that of younger industry newcomers who are are tertiary educated and we could hypothesise that sometimes this might make it challenging to find common ground.

2. Flying the UK flag

Another surprising insight was that 32% of adland CEOs are from the UK. This is a huge skew when compared to the ABS stat of just 4.7% for the rest of Australia – a second finding that genuinely altered our perception of those at the top.

3. Degrees of hope

It keeps it real for the rest of us. If you’ve not been tertiary educated and feel like you’ll never progress up the adland ladder or even be considered for a role, just look to a quarter of our CEOs and be inspired by their success. It also informs the way we hire people, understanding that a Uni degree doesn’t necessarily equate to the best future performance. It gives us the opportunity to look outside the bubble of tertiary-educated prospects.

Digging deeper

Having made these myth-busting discoveries based on a single survey of AdNews readers, we’re keen to study our industry leaders a lot more closely.

So following the announcement of the AdNews Power 50, we’ll be challenging those very CEOs to reveal more about themselves. The results? We hope to confirm our learnings to-date and burst further myths in this very unique bubble we occupy.


AdNews is hosting a half-day event in Sydney called Lessons In Leadership on October 24th - a day of talks and workshops from CEOs including MediaCom's Willie Pang, Leo Burnett's Melinda Geertz and M&C Saatchi's Jaimes Leggett. Headhunters and recruiters will also be on hand to talk delegates through the attributes of an adland leader. Tickets are priced at $279.00 for the half-day. More information here.

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