Sweathead study: Agencies risk losing strategists unless they improve company culture

Newsroom 25/05/2023 | 15:50

Sweathead, the New York based strategy training company, has released its latest B2B report – What Strategists Want From Work – that uncovers the sentiment of the global strategy community in advertising agencies and beyond.

By Romanita Oprea


The findings reveal that 42 per cent of strategists are looking to change jobs in the next 12 months, because their company culture has become focused on bureaucracy, over creativity. The report also finds that 80% of strategists cite a company that values strategy as the most important factor in making somewhere a great place to work. Strategists seek companies where strategy is not only valued but visible, the report finds. They want to know that their work will be part of the creative process and impact the final work.

Strategists leave a company when they’re not earning, or learning, or both. From the strategists polled, many feel undervalued, and as a result, are on the move, and some are leaving agency life for good. A lack of learning and development is a major factor with
69 per cent of strategists stating they don’t get enough training from their company.

In the report, Mark Pollard, Founder and CEO of Sweathead, introduces “The Cruciality Paradox”, the idea that: “Strategists have become crucial to the desires of many companies, but strategists have not become crucial to the fabric of those companies.

In recent years, we heard a lot about agencies using strategists to help them win new business in difficult times, to explain rapid changes in culture to clients, and to help the companies they worked in adapt better to new realities,” Pollard explains.

The study polled strategists and planners in the US, UK, Canada, India, Malaysia and Mexico, providing a global perspective. Over 73% of strategists surveyed work within advertising agencies, alongside those working in creative in-house teams, design agencies, marketing agencies and PR agencies, across all levels of seniority.

Sweathead also held in-depth interviews with 13 strategy leaders from the world’s most effective agencies (according to the latest Effie Index) to understand how they’re hiring for strategy roles and what makes for a great strategy culture, including two Romanians. Their insights, ideas and takeaways can be found within the full report.

“There’s a paradox I see in planning – today we have infinite more ways to stay close to our consumers, to people we write briefs about. Unfortunately, instead of connecting to people, planners use the abundance of data available and go for ready-made conclusions. I witness a lack of genuine curiosity, a decline in time spent for observing behavior. This is the skill that will always matter, this is a skill that will not get old”. – Raluca Kovacs, Chief Strategy Officer – Publicis Romania

 In our culture, planners are playing crucial roles in the working process, compared to other agencies. As they are involved in multiple moments when the campaign is cooked, their input highly impacts our advertising work, making a real difference in the overall output of the agency. The feeling that you decisively contributed to every step of the campaign is highly rewarding.“ – Victor Stroe, Head of Strategy – Leo Burnett Romania

“What Strategists Want From Work” spotlights that companies are not providing the culture needed for strategists to thrive. Yet for agencies and brands, strategy is needed more than ever to ensure their creative work is effective. Strategists can help teams create more effective work, BUT companies are struggling to hire and retain talent,” Pollard explains.

The full report is available for free download HERE.

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