Small Agencies Seek Good Help

How Do We Get the Kids Back?

By Published on .

Marc Brownstein 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.
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