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Tobaccowala Tells 4A's Industry Has to Shell Out for Top Talent

Citing Success of Silicon Valley Giants, VivaKi Exec Says Agencies Need to Hire 'Builders'

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- On Monday at the 4A's, Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer for Publicis Groupe's VivaKi, delivered a swift kick in the pants to an industry already hurting: Yes, technology has and will continue to change your business, but stop your whining. Young, hungry talent can transform this business, but you're going to have to pay for it.

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"I believe the next 10 years will be best 10 years of our industry ever," he said, calling the next decade a renaissance for advertising. He then highlighted the need to bring more of the "art" side of the business into forums such as the 4A's confab, which has so far mostly focused on data and media -- the "science" and "scale" sides of the ad triumvirate, as Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said earlier in the conference.

Mr. Tobaccowala turned to nearby Silicon Valley's fixation on top-tier talent as a model advertising could learn from. That top talent -- what he calls "builders" -- has made tech giants such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo $150 billion in combined annual sales.

"We need to make absolutely sure we bring in the builders," he said. "During the Renaissance, they built; they did not manage only, they did not data read. They built, they painted, they sculpted."

But to attract that caliber of talent, advertising will have to reevaluate the rite-of-passage model, where young talent have to pay their dues for five to six years before receiving a meaningful promotion. That also means senior leadership will have to better distribute compensation from the top down.

"The next generation wants wealth," he said. "A wealth of experience, wealth of education -- surround me with good people and teach me -- and then they want economic wealth.

"If we don't," he said, "they'll build somewhere else."

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