A Good Planner Is Hard to Find: Search Firm Looks Outside Industry

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The internet has wrought seismic changes on the media and advertising business, so it's no surprise that agencies are having a tough time keeping pace when it comes to staffing. The importance of digital venues has changed everything, and it's more critical than ever to hire a multifaceted media planner. It's also harder than ever to find one.
Rochelle Geller and Mike Drexler
Rochelle Geller and Mike Drexler

Mike Drexler and Rochelle Geller recently opened the doors of their new boutique executive-search firm Drexler Geller Associates, with offices in New York and San Francisco. Mr. Drexler most recently served as CEO of Publicis-owned Optimedia U.S., while Ms. Geller worked as senior VP-human resources and administration at ZenithOptimedia. They spoke to Advertising Age correspondent Daisy Whitney recently about the particularly tough task of unearthing media planners.

Advertising Age: What is the marketplace right now for media planners?

Mike Drexler: Most people have been recycling the same media planners from agency to agency. That kind of decision is being questioned today by most of the agencies because by bringing the same people to the table it doesn't allow for them to be distinctive. What [agencies] really want is to offer new concepts, new skills, new ideas for clients.

AA: How do you do that?

Mr. Drexler: By going outside of the industry. We are working with the entertainment industry for people who have developed content, who have worked in a multiplatform area. ... We are also looking on the brand-management side. What agencies are saying is they want people who understand integration. They want people who know how to coordinate activities from various disciplines, and people who have worked at client companies in brand management have done that all the time. They work with creative, management promotion, internet ... We are targeting companies doing it right and then we call people and say, "Are you interested in some new opportunities coming up?"

AA: How did it get to this point where the need is so great for qualified media planners?

Mr. Drexler: There wasn't a whole lot of revenue coming in from the digital side for a long time so no one paid a lot of attention to it. There wasn't a rush. Now that's changed.

AA: What percentage of media planners today have the necessary skill set?

Mr. Drexler: Very few can do it all well. Even if they are handling the way the internet has evolved up till now, [agencies] are now saying they want someone who has unique experience in search or mobile. The changes are so rapid it's hard to keep up.

Rochelle Geller: We have an assignment now where we need to hire someone who can do interactive but needs to talk traditional. ... It may take more time, but we believe we can find the right person.

AA: Do you have some sort of metric that helps you figure out if a person will be successful just by looking at the resume?

Ms. Geller: There must be a rumor out there that I have a secret sauce, but there is not a hidden sauce.

Mr. Drexler: We will spend time with a company in terms of their mission, their vision and their culture. We really need to understand the DNA of the company. ... There are certain companies that want aggressive people, certain companies that are more conservative, more disciplined, some more out-of-the- box. Then you have to ask the right questions of the candidate, and we have developed our own way for doing that.

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