Is There Any Good Talent Out There?


The short answer. Yes, but it’s not easy to find.

Recently, I was having lunch with a former colleague. She was inquiring as to whether I know of any mid-level advertising agency account folks who are looking for a job. She works for a small agency that has a strong culture, so fit is really important. Each time they have to hire someone it’s been a real challenge. It’s surprising to her that given the state of the economy how few candidates they are able to find. In particular, candidates with strong account management and strategy experience. They’ve had some candidates they like but they don’t exactly meet all their criteria. It’s taken them months to fill a position creating strain on those having to pick up the slack. She wondered if given the state of the economy, are people staying put in their current jobs not wanting to take a risk. But this led to a broader discussion about how and where to find talent and what to expect once you bring them onboard.

We both started in the advertising business over twenty years ago. She recently re-entered the workplace after a twelve-year hiatus. During that time, things have changed especially in the world of advertising and marketing. In the past, there were few career paths to follow. There was the large global advertising agency or brand management at a consumer packaged goods company. Both of these were highly competitive and the talent was concentrated in a few companies. People were cut from the same cloth – MBA educated at the select business schools. The skill set was well-defined and training against those skills was the norm.

The opportunities within advertising and marketing began to break open in the mid to late 1990’s. Smaller ad agencies were being created to offer a more nimble alternative to the stalwarts. The telecom, internet and high-tech industry were generating a lot of excitement and the promise of wealth for marketers. These began to siphon off talent and at the same time created a broader spectrum of advertising and marketing positions. As marketing’s influence grew, jobs were becoming more specialized. For example, in the agency world, the advent of planners meant account management was doing less strategic thinking thus narrowing their scope of responsibility.

I was recently leading a daylong strategic planning process for a pharma company and their advertising agency. In attendance from the agency were the senior and junior account folks. As we were progressing through the day, the senior account lead kept asking questions and wanting to clarify the strategic planning process. She sheepishly said to me, “I’m the account person and manage the client relationship but I’m never involved in the strategic planning”. My initial internal response was shock and then I realized that agency roles are being narrowly defined.

To further complicate matters, the proliferation of digital media resulted in a new breed of agencies and an entire roster of new specialized positions. Also, brand managers were quickly pegged as packaged goods, high-tech, pharma,  telecom, etc. Everyone is being labeled and classified. As the opportunities for marketers opened up, the good talent are no longer concentrated in a few places and the skill sets, capabilities and training vary widely.

There’s no doubt that the world of advertising and marketing is much more complex then it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. It’s given way to many more opportunities but it’s also tougher to find and evaluate candidates that meet all your criteria. What does this mean for those hiring? Three timely tips:

–  Keep an open mind. Evaluate candidates on potential and good cultural fit for the agency/company. It’s going to be very hard to find someone who checks all the boxes.

–  Be clear about the skills most critical for early success in a position and those skills that the candidate will have to develop for long-term success.

–  Don’t expect that everyone is trained and thinks the same as you. You may have to invest your time and resources to mentor and develop their skills. This will ensure consistency, alignment with your expectations and a growth opportunity for them.