Attract Better Marketing Talent with Better Marketing

Recruiting Efforts Fail to Deal With This Fundamental Problem

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Cindy Gallop and her cohorts at the recently minted Talent Business are trying to revolutionize recruitment in the marketing business. They want to break down national borders to create a global market for industry execs;

Jonah Bloom

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they want to break down the silos and move beyond the agency-poaching-agency model prevalent today; and, perhaps most radically, they are hoping to create a recruitment shop that candidates will actually seek out. They want to get rid of a headhunting system that engenders the whispered belief that only inferior candidates actively seek representation and replace it with something more akin to the entertainment world's famed Creative Artists Agency.

Who knows whether their walk can match such bold talk, but at least they're bringing some fresh thinking to the issue of recruitment.

Almost every marketing, media or agency exec I've spoken to on the subject over the past five years has listed the shortage of the right types of talent as one of their toughest challenges.

It's become a crippling Catch-22 for both marketers and their agencies. Marketing departments don't have enough people of the caliber to truly change and drive business, so they don't get the respect they want in the C-suite, so they can't attract and retain the caliber of talent to drive business and end up regarded as little more than a cost center, rather than a springboard for the very top jobs.

Similarly, agencies want to rise above commodity by selling clients consultancy-level services such as ideation, strategic thinking, channel planning and digital savvy. But many don't have the depth of talent to turn these into meaningful offerings, so they become interchangeable vendors of communications collateral. In that penny-pinched position, they find themselves unable to attract or train the kind of talent that would enable them to elevate their offerings.

In response to this chronic and industry-limiting problem, some schools have broadened the scope of some programs to reflect the fact that the business is no longer just about slotting an ad inside a magazine or TV program. But there are still depressingly few brand-management courses at top-level schools and only two courses, to my knowledge, in digital marketing.

Several of the agencies have boosted their HR and recruitment departments to put more emphasis on talent, and a few -- Goodby, Deutsch and JWT spring to mind -- have had some success finding creatives in new places, as opposed to simply trawling the ad schools and hiring their rivals' staffs. Meanwhile, several of the ad and marketing associations, notably the Advertising Educational Foundation, have ramped up their outreach to schools and colleges and have expanded their mentoring programs.

But the efforts don't deal with one of the most fundamental problems -- potential recruits' negative perceptions of the ad industry. Marketing today is all about the challenge of growing businesses that are often mature in an increasingly transparent and consumer-controlled world. At its best, that's about big, innovative ideas; spotting what consumers want and don't want from brands; responding to their demands; perhaps even about helping brands identify the ways they might demonstrate their social or environmental responsibility. Yet many young people still think of marketing as being almost solely about cluttering the media landscape with stuff no one wants to hear about.

Do they understand that creating a blog is a brand-building and audience-engaging experience? That their intimate knowledge of social networks or video games or their comfort with various software applications could become highly valued skills? In most cases I suspect not, because they're still thinking of their fathers' marketing industry, not the industry that today's CMOs and agency CEOs are trying to create.

And that needs to change.
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