Mental Health in Advertising

by Gia
June 11, 2021

Is the agency life toxic? Advertising agencies pride themselves on being “agile,” “in-the-know,” and “resourceful” - but at what cost? More brand campaigns (that agencies create) are preaching about mental health and wellness, but are they practicing what they preach? Just look at @agency_insider. The advertising industry is notorious for having tight deadlines, long hours, and high client expectations. “It is what it is…” or is it?

Let’s Talk About It

Despite the many strides agencies have made on social media, mental health is still taboo in the workplace. So let’s address the elephant in the room: the advertising industry is toxic. With social media and technology, the fast-paced nature of our work will never slow down. The demands that we put ourselves through to constantly keep up with culture and trends is fun and exciting, yet can be detrimental to our mental and physical health.

We sometimes find ourselves working till midnight (or later), working weekends to play catch up, or even canceling after-work plans for a last-minute pitch. Though we pride ourselves on our quick turnarounds, it’s time for a more honest conversation: is slowing down in a fast paced industry a bad thing? In the creative business, people are our biggest assets, so we should be treating them as such. Perhaps if we were more open and realistic about our limitations, we’d better prevent burnout and produce more inspired work. 

Finding Balance

As a company born in the pandemic, we have only known what it’s like to WFH. Between managing both our client's business and our start-up plus having a mishmosh of work and home life, finding a balance can be tough. But as Gen-Zs, we’re entrepreneurial and trailblazing: we take matters into our own hands and don’t do things because that’s how it’s always been done.

As an agency, some of our efforts to find that work-life balance include blocking off a “creative hour” every week to do anything that inspires our creativity: go for a walk, read a book, play an instrument, etc. We also take a half day every last Friday of the month to give everyone a break to start fresh the next month! Seems a bit ironic as I’m typing up this blog at 9pm but… we’re working on it!

Taking Action

Mental health and well-being go well beyond “self-care” and are constantly evolving. As part of the advertising industry ourselves, we want to make sure that our company growth doesn’t come at the expense of our individual wellbeing. As we work towards building a culture where mental health is a priority, here are 3 things we’re doing to prioritize mental well-being at NinetyEight:

  1. Listen - we want to make our agency a safe space that empowers our team to do their best work, instead of pressuring them and pushing them beyond their limits.
  2. Slow down - quality over quantity: the world is so full of noise; sometimes it’s better to scale it back.
  3. Engage in Conversation - mental health isn’t a one and done conversation; it’s important to constantly learn and evolve. 

Don’t get us wrong, not all agency life is toxic. I personally love the thrill and the challenge of this fast-paced industry. Many agencies, too, are starting to prioritize mental health in the workplace through benefits, workshops, and various wellness initiatives. But it doesn’t stop there -- until we can all have honest conversations and establish work boundaries without feeling guilty, there’s still a lot of work to be done!