Minimising brain drain

Tan Kien Eng, chief executive officer, dentsu Malaysia told StarBiz that advertisers need to play a fair role to help sustain the ad ecosystem with fair remuneration on creativity, intellectual property and timely payment to agencies for work or stages of work completed.

PETALING JAYA: With local talents in advertising leaving for greener pastures abroad, it’s time agency leaders say the ad ecosystem on the whole needs to be strengthened to minimise the brain drain.

Tan Kien Eng, chief executive officer, dentsu Malaysia told StarBiz that advertisers need to play a fair role to help sustain the ad ecosystem with fair remuneration on creativity, intellectual property and timely payment to agencies for work or stages of work completed.

He said the lack of cash flow is one of the “killers” of many startups as some advertisers are pushing payment into 60 days, 90 days and even 120 days.

“I hope some of the advertisers who delay payments will realise that with the collapse of the ecosystem that supports their businesses, it will eventually have an impact and disrupt their own business growth agenda,” he added.M&C Saatchi Malaysia CEO and founder Datin Seri Sharifah Menyalara Hussein felt that advertising is not as attractive as it used to be.

She said it has lost not only the prestige and glamour it had in the eighties and nineties but it is also not strongly positioned to attract and excite young new talents.

“The industry clearly needs to stand united with clients to attract talented young people who are turning away and being lured by startups or other sexier alternatives.

“Agencies need to set themselves apart with smart employer branding and have a well-defined culture, values and features as people want to work with companies and brands which make a difference,” she noted.

Commenting on the talent pool in the local ad space, Tan said the pipeline of talents into the advertising workforce remains healthy.

The question is around the quality of fresh talents, he said.

“With the number of institutions of higher learning producing fresh graduates only a handful of them are prepared for the real world. Institutions of higher learning need to enhance practical real world learning into their curriculum beyond textbooks.

“There will always be new entrants into the market. They will remain niche and small in scale serving small budget advertisers looking for low cost solutions.

“On average three out of ten new agencies will survive beyond five years and one in thirty will grow into full-fledged agencies of medium scale. To sustain, smaller agencies need to either consolidate or be acquired by larger groups, Tan noted.

Based on her experience in the ad industry, Sharifah said it is not that attractive, sexy and exciting enough to appeal to the younger segment.

Agencies have taken too long to address the brain drain issue and look for alternatives, she added. For example, women have been kept away from leadership roles and it is only in recent years that women are helming such roles.

In a recent study conducted by gradmalaysia, it shows that the ad industry is not represented in the top 100 most popular graduate recruiters in 2021. And within the media and entertainment sector, the creative industry doesn’t surface and does not appear in the top 25 most preferred job choices.

Mediabrands Malaysia director of human resources Debica Sigamani said as global mobility gets easier with the reopening of the borders, the agency is seeing an increasing trend of talents pursuing opportunities abroad.

Mediabrands Malaysia director of human resources Debica SigamaniMediabrands Malaysia director of human resources Debica Sigamani

With the rapid transformation of the industry, talents are becoming more courageous, and it’s natural for younger talents to want to experience international exposure, she said.

On the other hand, Debica said there are also more talents returning home, as they want to stay close to their family, plus the increasing opportunities for growth, especially in the advertising scene.

Sharifah said agencies and employers need to look at holistic ways of managing the talent crunch.

For example, these include through non-traditional interview techniques, building emotional intelligence-centric training programmes and collaborating with top universities to promote the industry to different disciplines instead of focusing on business and marketing grads.

Datin Seri Sharifah Menyalara HusseinDatin Seri Sharifah Menyalara Hussein

“Talent recruitment and retention is what keeps me up at nights as shortage of resources is a never-ending challenge.

“The industry suffers greatly from brain drain and talents escaping to lucrative markets like Singapore. If we don’t unite as an industry to fix this challenge, it will become even less attractive.

“The industry must look at a few key areas. It should remunerate fairly.

“This means seeking better compensation from our clients.

“The industry should offer jobs that complement not dominate the lives of employees, for example, no more long hours culture and to offer potential sense of belonging and progression,” she added.

To attract talents, Debica said it’s time for agencies to power up employer branding to attract talents.

Over recent years, she said the HR function in the ad industry has morphed into complex talent management.

From remote working to a holistic approach of hybrid working, she said there has been a lot of effort to keep diversity, equity and inclusion in the spotlight, powering up the talents skill and deliverables and managing their well-being, while simultaneously keeping the human touch alive.

“Our value proposition as employers is our brand. As such it is important for us to get our story out there for talents to see what it is like to live and breathe in an advertising agency,” she noted.

Tan said for Malaysia to be more competitive compared with regional markets, the entire advertising ecosystem – advertisers, platforms, national human resource policies – needs to play a role in upping the game for the industry to be more competitive in retaining and attracting talents.

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Minimising , brain drain , Ad , ecosystem , strengthened ,


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