Overworking in adland: We’re all part to blame but, what's next?

Commercial director at Tonic Health Media, Jack Mortlock
By Commercial director at Tonic Health Media, Jack Mortlock | 5 February 2018
Jack Mortlock

What’s your 'why'? And, whilst you’re thinking about it, what’s your organisation's 'why'? This isn’t some highfalutin gibberish that your company pretends to stand for - I’m asking about ethos, the reason you can be arsed to get up on a Monday.

If you don’t have a 'why' or if your 'why' is different to your companies 'why', you are doing the wrong thing and it's time to change as this is not a rehearsal.

Similarly, if you are reading this and you run a company, or are responsible for People and Culture and you don’t know your 'why', you are letting your people down.

If you’ve had anything to do with Tonic over the years, you’d know that we are serious about health, mind-body-soul; it’s a holistic thing. We run a year-long agency initiative called the Healthy Living Series, we put together Healthy Eating seminars and demonstrations, yoga, pilates, mental health programs, meditation and even offer skin checks ... all free to anyone in agency – why? Because we care, we are as much a health business as a media business. We take this shit seriously.

Through the program I have interacted with maybe a 1000 agency reps, listened to feedback, chatted about experiences.

It's a bit grim out there for these young guns with so many of them seeming rattled, flat out or just getting through it.

It’s no surprise that we live and work in a work hard, play hard culture where courage, banter and sales figures win the day. That’s fine, I get it, I’m guilty of it too, but I think we’ve hit a tipping point that will ultimately create long-term problems for our industry and the whole media ecosystem.

Agencies can be a tough place to be - the market is tight and workers are stressed. While stress is completely normal, it becomes a problem when it doesn't end, but what’s the end game?

I will confess to having personally been through some high-pressure situations in my career, however the feedback we got from agency land was nothing short of staggering. In what I may have anticipated as a wide-ranging session dealing with health, nutrition and exercise the conversation was actually quite confronting at times.

To be clear, by far the most discussed topics were stress, depression, mental health and their associated manifestations, namely alcohol, drugs and overwork. And not just top-level discussions either, it soon became clear that these were the underlying concerns of our industry,

You might ask whether this is just endemic of modern society at large, and not specific to media agency land. And I’d say you might be right, however that doesn’t mean we do not have a responsibility to our colleagues, as well as a responsibility to the future of the media agency model that we all rely on.

Well that’s the uncomfortable truth, so what can we do about it? I believe this is an issue that the whole media and advertising industry can rally behind, as not one single part of the chain it to blame, everyone is at fault.

We need to recalibrate the 'why'.

People first. Nurture, care, concern – go the fuck home, get some sleep – agencies, customers, publishers - hire more people to do the job! People who are less strung out and mentally healthier will make better decisions - meaning better outcomes for brands, publishers and agencies alike.

This is a very real issue. The last few years have seen huge advances in combatting racism, sexism, misogyny and homophobia. Mental health is the last bastion to bring down and we can’t keep shifting the blame.

Support your kids, they’ll take over the world one day, nurture them and they will flourish.

By commercial director at Tonic Health Media, Jack Mortlock

Tonic Health Media will once again be partnering with us to deliver a special, exclusive session at this year’s Media and Marketing Summit in Sydney (4 May ) and Melbourne ( 25 July). We will follow-up with more details in due course.

The core program for Sydney has been unveiled here. Early bird tickets cost $610 including GST per ticket. Tickets for groups of five cost $585 including GST per person.



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