Small Agencies Make Pretty Good Dates

We Might Even Get Your Ready for the Prom Queen You Seek

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Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland
You know you're probably doing the right thing when you continually lose your people to our industry's powerhouse agencies. It may sound like a negative, but if agencies such as Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Mother, and Chiat Day hire your employees, they obviously think you're doing something right. Leonard Monahan was such an agency in the '80s and '90s. David Lubars, Kara Goodrich, David Baldwin and Ernie Schenck all grew up there and then went on to be leaders in our industry. Where was Leonard Monahan? Providence, Rhode Island. That's right, the hub of advertising, dynamic Rhode Island.

I'm in the midst of recruiting due to recently (and proudly) losing a couple of people to an industry leader. As expected, the work we have done and our success in the national shows have garnered me conversations with some very bright and newly graduated ad makers. It is obvious that they like what they see in us, but I can tell by our conversation that in their minds we are definitely not the prom queen of ad agencies. As I told a young friend who is helping me find the right match, many have said they would be happy to go to the prom with us if the prom queen turns them down.

Now this is no pity party. I completely understand the hopes of youth, but I wonder if they realize how well our type of agency can dance? And isn't dancing what it's all about? Wouldn't you rather be dancing with a decent looking girl, than sitting at the end of a long row of metal folding chairs in the dark corner of the gym, watching your date dance with the football team's quarterback?

When you go to work for a small agency you get in the game. You are the go-to player. You are first on the list in the ad show credits. At a small agency, you quickly get assigned the best opportunities. Those opportunities could literally catapult you to a higher rung at the large one in a shorter amount of time than if you had been there all along.

I think doing work on high-profile brands is an important step in a young person's career. So important that one of the selling points of my agency is that we mentor our employees to fulfill his or her career goals, even if the goal is to move on to a larger agency. Even someone that has only been in the industry a short time will testify that this is an uncommon perk.

Few entry-level people see the advantage over the risk. Granted, going to an agency in Rhode Island or some other off-the-grid place may seem like career suicide. But ask Alex Bogusky, David Lubars, and Kara Goodrich if working at a small agency was not where their creative metal was pounded and sharpened. And I dare say, it is probably where their fondest memories of the joys of this business were experienced.

So if you're young and you're in no mood to sit at the prom, investigate small agencies that are dedicated to excellence. I promise you that if dating the prom queen is your hope, you have a much better chance of getting her attention if you're on the dance floor.

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