From outside appearances, it might seem that Starcom IP, the interactive unit of Leo Burnett Co.'s Starcom Media Services, would have difficulty attracting and retaining top interactive media personnel. With all the stock options, high salaries and instant millionaires created by the hot "dot-com" agencies and Internet companies going public, what possibly could a traditional agency offer the young, interactive generation?
"Ah, appearances can be deceiving," says Rishad Tobaccowala, president of Starcom IP, Chicago. "We do have something that many of those dot-coms don't."
DEPTH, ESTABLISHED NETWORKS
That special something, Mr. Tobaccowala says, is the depth of resources and established international networks that young upstarts such as Agency.com, Razorfish and others cannot offer--at least, not at this time.
The ability to hire and keep top-notch employees is tough, but not impossible, even if a traditional company doesn't have high-flying stock or big options to offer.
"Good people are simply hard to find," says Patti Maischoss, managing partner, Lucas Group, San Francisco, an executive recruiter. "There are jobs both online and offline that have appeal. . . . It's not difficult to place people in either a traditional agency or an online company . . . once they've been found to be interested in a new position."
Employment is far more fluid today than in previous years, Ms. Maischoss contends.
"Just because you're working in one discipline doesn't mean you can't--or shouldn't--try something new," she says. "Look at what the dot-coms are doing to generate awareness; they're running traditional advertising and marketing campaigns. They need people grounded in that [traditional media] world."
It's not unusual to get a call from someone placed two to three years ago in an Internet company "and now they're ready to move on again, usually back to the traditional agency, albeit in an interactive position," Ms. Maischoss says. "Many advertising and marketing executives now realize they need experience in both online and off-line worlds. What you want most to be today is well-rounded, with the experience to move in both the traditional and interactive worlds."
Sure, the money and allure of becoming an Internet millionaire is certainly appealing. But matching skills and experience to new challenges is what several executives say most interests them.
"A lot of my friends think that I'm crazy to give up the job I had [with Launch.com, a Santa Monica, Calif., entertainment company] and move back to Starcom IP," says Tim Harris, 25, an associate director overseeing the Miller Brewing Co., Nintendo of America, Andersen Worldwide's Arthur Andersen and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts accounts.
"I was in a great situation and I knew that Launch.com was going to be going through an [initial public offering of stock] soon, but I was interested in acquiring a different skill set . . . something that I would get through Starcom IP," he says.
Mr. Harris, who left Burnett's media department in 1997, rejoined Starcom IP in January.
'DOT-COM, 24/7 MINDSET'
"I felt I had worked enough in that [dot-com] world and I wanted to get back into the media/advertising end of the business," he says. "I haven't left that world behind entirely. I have brought along with me some of that dot-com, 24/7 mindset."
They may be working at traditional agencies, but "we're moving along at Internet speed," says Jeff Marshall, 27, also an associate director at Starcom IP. Mr. Marshall is a homegrown "Burnetter," having worked within Starcom before joining the interactive group.
"What I saw in Starcom IP was an opportunity to go to the next level in interactive advertising," Mr. Marshall says. "I didn't have to fly off to San Francisco, I could stay right here in Chicago and be a part of all that traditional media and the Internet together have to offer."
One recent recruit to Darwin Digital, New York, the interactive arm of Saatchi & Saatchi, is President Cynthia Rogers. She has overseen all aspects of the interactive agency's business, including client services, media buying, technology development, production and staffing in the New York and San Francisco locations, since joining Darwin Digital in March in the new post.
Ms. Rogers, who declined to be interviewed, was placed at Darwin by Redwood Partners, a New York executive search and management consultancy. The 45-year-old spent the previous two years as an interactive strategy consultant; before that, she was managing director for Avon Products' online and offline marketing start-up, Avon LifeDesigns, and held the same title for Worldcom Group, a global alliance of independently owned public relations agencies.
ENVIRONMENT VS. OPTIONS
"It's not necessary to give every recruit stock options, nor is every person looking for that kind of compensation," says Randy Schoenfeld, managing partner of Redwood Partners. "We're finding that many of the executives we work with are looking for other benefits, like finding the right working environment, one that they might have considerable impact upon and in which they can flourish. For many executives, it comes down to quality of life."
Traditional agencies' global capabilities and resources are a powerful lure, Mr. Schoenfeld says.
"There's a lot of interest not only in the job today but what might be available a year or so later," he says. "A traditional agency certainly can whet the appetite of a potential executive with those tantalizing opportunities."
MORE THAN JUST A WEB SITE
Dangling those possibilities before job candidates "is something we're learning quickly how to do," says J.G. Sandom, director of interactive-North America, OgilvyOne Worldwide, New York, owned by WPP Group.
A pending IPO may be very tempting, Mr. Sandom says. "What we're doing is presenting ourselves as offering more than just a Web site . . . that executives will work with clients who need integrated marketing communications strategies."
If it's just equity you're interested in, we admit straight out that we can't do that," says Mr. Sandom. "But if you're looking for a challenge, if you're looking for global reach, if you're looking for a foreign posting, say maybe you'd like to do interactive marketing from Paris, we can do that."
OgilvyOne is hiring about 20 or so people a month, with perhaps one-quarter of the candidates coming to Mr. Sandom's attention through postings on Web head-hunting sites such as TMP Worldwide's Monster.com.
Mr. Sandom also oversees a campaign that places outdoor ads promoting OgilvyOne "right on the doorstep" of competing agencies, such as Agency.com and Grey Interactive, "just in case we get seen by their talent as they go to work," he says. "Maybe an executive there is ready for a new challenge."
Mr. Sandom declined to say what OgilvyOne spends on the in-house produced campaign. The ads are appearing in major cities, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
MORE THAN STOCK OPTIONS
If money is all that an interactive executive is looking for, "that's not the kind of person we're looking for," says Starcom IP's Mr. Tobaccowala. "There's more to interactive marketing than stock options, and those are the individuals we're interested in hiring."
Starcom IP, which formally opened its doors this year with about 16 clients, is hiring up to two employees every week. By yearend, Mr. Tobaccowala expects there will be at least 50 executives in the interactive media unit.
"We're seeking out unique people, many of whom we find just knock on the door," he says. "What they find . . . is an environment that's exhilarating."
And it's an environment that the larger agency, Leo Burnett USA, fully supports.
"That was a major reason why I chose to come to Starcom IP," says Chandra Panley, 28, an associate director who moved to Starcom IP in April from director-interactive services, JWT Digital, Chicago. "The level of opportunity here, combined with the support of the established company, make this a positive environment for me. . . . I feel secure in that I have a future here, no matter which way the Internet goes."
Copyright July 1999, Crain Communications Inc.