Long hours, high stakes, impending deadlines and celebratory parties. These are the highs and lows of the digital advertising industry. While it can be glamorous, exciting and fun; it can be incredibly stressful. Combine that with an industry that is constantly changing and it’s a recipe for torpedoing mental wellbeing. In fact, 56 percent of Australians in marketing, media and creative industries exhibited mild to severe levels on the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale, compared to 36 percent of the national average. 

Even outside the industry the statistics are bleak: According to the World Economic Forum, over one billion people suffer from anxiety. In Asia, a recent survey of Hong Kong residents found that 61 percent of participants showed signs of poor mental well being. That’s exactly why, in Singapore, employers are placing greater importance on overall wellbeing with two in five employers looking to add or enhance chronic disease management and mental health programs in their organisations.

Here are three ways to start.

Ditch the stigma

There’s a stigma around mental illness in many Asian countries, and mental wellbeing is closely tied to things like honour and ancestral punishment, particularly for older generations. In the digital advertising industry, there’s another stigma: working to the bone. Many people work late and it’s sometimes frowned upon to leave early, creating a toxic mix that pushes people to work even harder while hiding the fact that they’re simply not okay.

The truth is, everyone struggles at times, and it’s not uncommon for people to have issues that run deeper than a typical bad day. It’s time for the industry to redefine hard work while recognizing the fact that mental illness is not taboo. Through honest conversations and open communication, it’s possible to take productive steps towards destigmatizing employee wellbeing. While those conversations can certainly happen with HR, offering an external counsellor or resource can create a safe space to enable deeper interactions.

Make it everyone’s responsibility

It’s clear that mental wellbeing in the digital advertising industry is not good, so it’s time to ask the obvious question: why? Relationships are often transactional, focusing solely on business benefits rather than creating a healthy, thriving community. For this to change, companies must take an active interest in employee wellbeing. Whether it’s offering well being-related benefits, such as counseling services, or creating a safe internal environment for sharing, it’s important for companies to invest in people while creating avenues for support. Not only that, by recognizing each employee’s individual needs rather than managing collectively, organizations can take a tailored approach to help every team member mitigate stress and, ultimately, succeed.

Dig deeper

It’s no secret that people spend the majority of their time at work – and it’s especially true in digital advertising. To ensure mental wellbeing, it’s important to build relationships with coworkers that build trust and get to the heart of why someone might be having an issue. With deeper relationships comes deeper accountability, enabling people to intervene in the event that a coworker is crumbling. In addition, by identifying root causes at work, such as process inefficiencies or time wasting, companies can reverse course and ultimately free employees from the bonds of working too hard for too long. By changing the culture at work, people can speak up and speak out – and get the help they need. 


In today’s culture, everyone is encouraged to ‘bring their all to work,’ which means now more than ever, it’s important to recognize and address employees’ mental health. The industry is all about long working hours, tight deadlines, parties to celebrate and parties to commiserate. There’s a rich pool of talent who are at the crossroads of excellence and madness. Sometimes, this is the critical moment of a breakthrough idea; sometimes, this is the point of a breakdown. How then do we draw a line between the two?

It’s time to start thinking about wellness by taking a holistic approach and this must be embedded in culture, built from a balance of top-down and bottom-up approaches. And no, yoga in the office is not the long-term answer. If the industry comes together to find longer term solutions, it’s possible to set people and businesses up for success. 


This thought leadership article was written by IAB SEA+India Programmatic Committee Member Pritika Hemmady, Sales Director, Asia, Sojern.