Talk to agency executives in China and they'll say talent recruitment and retention are the most pressing issues facing the industry. WPP's Group M is confronting this challenge with a unique tactic: a reality show.
Called "Young Power," the 10-episode online series is being promoted on popular Chinese websites and seat-back taxi screens in four major cities. The 10 college graduates on the elimination-style show complete various media-planning tasks, with the winner going on to a permanent job within Group M and its agencies.
The goal isn't to trigger a flood of applications, said Roger Li, chief talent officer for Group M China. Rather, it's to help bright young Chinese understand the basics of media investment and management, and inspire interest in the industry as a career option.
"The history of the media industry is quite short" in China, he said. "When people think about advertising, they always think about creative production rather than media. Even when I go to college campuses to talk about our industry, there are a lot of questions.
"As long as [the show] draws a lot of interest and awareness of the media industry, I'm very happy," he said.
Turnover at Group M in China is about 25% each year in a market where some agencies have 50% turnover. Coupled with staffing demands stemming from agency growth, Group M China must hire 600 new employees each year.
In the U.S., a prospective employee who comes to an interview with no idea what the company does would probably be laughed out of the room. Not so in China, where Mr. Li said that scenario is "absolutely" normal.
"If we can interest you, and you come, we have confidence that we can attract you to us because what we're doing is something that 's a lot of fun," he said.
"Young Power" kicked off with a trailer that garnered 100,000 views within days. The first episode was posted on video-sharing site Youku last week, with a new installment each day. Challenges include preparing a basic media budget, conducting consumer-insights research and coming up with a social-media activation plan for a sports brand.