Friday, June 22, 2007
Another columnist at AdAge.com bemoans the industry’s alleged lack of talent, and Hadji Williams strikes again (see Essay 4076). The crazy part is, the columnist is none other than Marc Brownstein, who was spotlighted in MultiCultClassics last October (click on the essay title above to review Essay 1222). First read Brownstein’s latest observations, then check out Williams’ response—and finish it all off with a MultiCultClassics commentary.
Small Agencies Seek Good Help
How Do We Get the Kids Back?
By Marc Brownstein
This is a recruitment call on behalf of small agencies everywhere. It wasn’t long ago that it was pretty easy to find talented writers, art directors, project managers, public relations people and account executives. Headhunters needed us more than we needed them. Yet today, many talented people have left the business or have opted for a freelance career.
Where have they all gone? It’s pretty well documented that we (as an industry) chased many good people away after the dot-com implosion. We hired them, put them on accounts that never had a chance of being brands, and when the venture-capital money dried up, we fired them. Nice way to treat talented individuals. That was wave one.
Wave two has arrived seven years later. Only this time, good people are losing their passion for the business because the business has changed. Recently, a writer left our agency after many years because she lost her love for advertising. That pretty much summed up what’s going on.
How has the business changed? Clients are more demanding. They side-step branding and strategy for tactical execution. They demand results in unreasonable time frames. And they tighten the purse for agency compensation. You think that doesn’t have an impact on the people who work on their brands?
In addition, agencies are trying to figure out where the world is heading. So we’re integrating -- sometimes successfully, sometimes not. We’re cross-training those who were reared on the traditional side of the business because we all know the growth is on the digital side. Thing is, all this internal realignment causes disruption and process issues. We have it at our agency. And after talking with a well-known agency consultant, most small-to-mid-size agencies are dealing with the same issues. No agency is immune.
I can tell you that, at our agency, we have job openings in many departments. And that’s not just in our Philadelphia office. We’ve had a senior-level opening in our Seattle office for months now. We’ve interviewed many candidates; there’s just a shortage of good people out there right now -- especially mid-level people. Until we find them, we’ll rely on freelancers that we’ve worked with over the years.
So what do we do? As my dad, Berny (who is our founder and CEO), says: “We have to bring fun back to the business.”
Sure, clients are breathing fire more than ever. But there’s also a growing need for great ideas. With the massive clutter out there, it’s more important than ever to make your brand stand out. Those who can, will succeed in this business. Insisting on great thinking, and fostering a culture to incubate it, will help bring young talent back to our business. Doing outrageous work will inspire others to join up. And figuring out how to execute in both traditional and digital media in the advertising and public relations space will go further still in re-establishing marketing agencies as a good choice for a rewarding career.
I know there’s interest with the next generation. I have a daughter who’s graduating high school, and almost every day one of her friends asks her how to get an internship at our agency. Or if they’re graduating college, they ask about sending me a resume. Young people are still passionate about this business. That bodes well for the future. Until then, small agencies are going to continue to make headhunters rich.
Just a note--akin to one left in another entry:
Agencies, both big and small, traditional and non-, along with PR and promotions, would do well to expand the pool of talent from which they currently draw from. Great ideas and unique perspectives are not wrapped in just one skin color. Sounds like a broken record or a remix of an old song, but it’s true and needs to be said until people listen.
It’s counterproductive to complain about a lack of talent and useless to make “try harder” HR speeches as long we as an industry continue to display such a stunning lack of will to recruit and respect talent from ALL sectors of society, including those which we aren’t members of ourselves.
The only people hurt by this long-standing construct of entrenched homogeny are our clients’ brands and our own agencies’ futures. —Hadji Williams, Chicago, IL
Well, it’s clear that Marc Brownstein has failed to make much progress on the Darwinian Chart of Cultural Cluelessness, assuming a simian stance somewhere between the late Al Campanis and Don Imus.
Last October, Brownstein wrote of dreams for a recruitment road show and minority student scholarships. Plus, he promised to regularly report on his achievements. Not sure about the man’s level of victory, as MultiCultClassics editors rarely read Brownstein’s online drivel. But it would be interesting to learn how many non-Whites were interviewed for his shop’s numerous job openings.
Of course, Brownstein seeks guidance from agency founder and CEO Berny Brownstein—who just happens to be his dad. You can bet the B-Boys have tapped all available relatives for the employment slots. Brownstein even admits to collecting referrals and resumes from his daughter’s pals. White-skin privilege is a terrible thing to waste.
According to Brownstein, “…agencies are trying to figure out where the world is heading. So we’re integrating—sometimes successfully, sometimes not.” Too bad his definition of integration doesn’t include diversity.
Brownstein also typed, “Insisting on great thinking, and fostering a culture to incubate it, will help bring young talent back to our business.” The question is, whose culture does the man really plan on fostering?