Cost of living and class - a view from Common People

Lisa Thompson, Business Director Strategy & Planning at Wavemaker about the things adland can do to support those from working-class households.

We need to start with some real talk… The cost-of-living crisis will impact business. Inflation isn’t just hitting people on the street. We must be cognoscente of the fact as inflations increases people will spend less, and as result brands may suffer in the short-term.

And whilst we all can wax lyrical about the dangers of cutting marketing investment, we all know it will happen. This will mean businesses will be under more pressure, it’ll harder to get new starters signed off and, in some instances, businesses may be forced into making bloody horrible decisions. Therefore, we must be realistic.  

But we are also very lucky in our industry. As you progress you earn a decent salary and we get some pretty nice extras. My boyfriend works in the NHS and it blows his mind that we not only get lunch out, but that we don’t have to contribute a tenner a month to the teabag fund. But the gap between the most junior and senior workforce is staggering. The cost-of-living challenges are going to impact younger, and more junior staff more, especially junior staff who don’t have the luxury of financial support from their parents. Those from working class backgrounds will be hit hardest. Research shows that those from working-class households are currently seeing inflation at 10.9% v 10% average, those from the most well-off households are facing 7%.

So what can we do.

Common People’s moral imperatives

  1. Real Living Wages – this shouldn’t even have to be written. Pay junior staff a real living wage. Don’t get them to work for free or even for peanuts. Look hard at your top and bottom salary bands, do they feel morally just. If not recalibrate.
  2. Expenses – don’t expect people to dosh out cash and then wait for it. As bills increase, we’ll be watching more cash go out. This means having to wait for money to enter your bank account, will feel even more painful. Figure out a way to ensure people don’t have to do this. If credit cards aren’t an option, have petty cash. Help people not put undue stress on bank accounts.
  3. Flexibility & Transparency - be as flexible as possible. Offer people the chance to travel later when the trains might be cheaper, keep the office open and warm if people want to work there. Ensure people know about money saving benefits like season ticket loans and when their entitled to working late expenses, and if needed, free mental health support.
  4. Be decent when interviewing – give good feedback quick, don’t drag it out, show your salary bands on the ad. And cover time for interviewing and offer to pay for travel. Industries like law and finance do this - they’re all making inroads in working-class talent.

It needs to be said, that these solutions are not cost of living solutions. They’re not just the right thing to do but things that remove the economic barriers of those from working-class backgrounds. When we have class diversity it’s proven we create better work, and therefore generate more income. Something even more important now. Not doing these things now will impact our work for years to come.

Lisa Thompson, Business Director Strategy & Planning at Wavemaker

But what else can we do, the below ideas have been directly sourced from the Common People Brain hive. Feel free to rip off.

  • Do nice things for your staff that don’t cost the world - We know rising gas bills means people won’t go out as much. Is there a way to get pizzas into the office, or gift people vouchers for takeaways so they can treat themselves when they can’t go out out.
  • The best things in life are free – at Wavemaker we have 2 hours for wellness a week, whether to go to the gym, a run or a walk. As it gets darker, a run at 7pm may not feel desirable (or safe for young women), and gyms often offer cheaper off-peak classes, that staff may want to take advantage of.
  • Be Kind – check in with staff, encourage them to be open, and if you’re in senior management, be mindful that cutting back looks different and starker for everyone.

And if you are extra lucky and aren’t feeling the pinch, consider donating to funds that help working-class talent in the creative industries. I hear there’s a great one called Common People. They have merch, so as well as feeling generous you get to look like a cool commoner too. And if you are from a working-class background and need support, the Common People squad are always here.

Find out more about Common People


 The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024