Headhunting Has a Whole New Look

Gallop's Latest Venture Looks to Reshape How Industry Recruits Talent

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Cindy Gallop is back -- and trying out her impression of Jerry Maguire.

The former CEO of Bartle Bogle Hegarty USA has joined forces with Gary Stolkin, chairman-CEO of global recruitment agency Kendall Tarrant, to rebrand his business with no less an aim than creating the ad-world equivalent of the entertainment industry's Creative Artists Agency -- and, in the process, change headhunting as it's been known.
Photo: Ted Sabarese

Talent business execs (from l.) Cindy Gallop, Ilana Bryant and Lucy Meredith

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Answer to industry ills?
Today the pair relaunches the London-based agency with offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, São Paulo and San Francisco as the Talent Business, adding a 10-person New York office under the direction of U.S. CEO Lucy Meredith. As the name -- a shift away from the stodgy legal-firm approach of putting the principals' names above the door -- may suggest, Ms. Gallop and Mr. Stolkin believe they can create a different type of talent agency at a time when the industry regards itself as being in a talent crisis.

"The industry is going through a big bang right now," Mr. Stolkin said. "All the agencies say, or want to be able to say, that they can do everything: ads, digital, direct or whatever. But recruitment is typically done by recycling the same ad people. We wanted to create an agency that would cut across the silos of the different disciplines. We also wanted to come up with a genuinely global offering, so that we can find and provide a resource for talent all over the world."

While silo-integration efforts always prompt industry skepticism, the Talent Business is backing its bluster with an internal fee structure that eschews the usual recruitment-agency model of paying each individual headhunter a commission on candidates placed in jobs. Instead, employees share 25% of the company's pre-tax profit -- last year Kendall Tarrant made around $3.5 million after employee bonuses were paid. By removing the focus on commission, Ms. Meredith said, the company will encourage sharing of candidates among recruiters and focus on clients' best interests rather than on simply putting butts in seats.

Removing stigma
The Talent Business is hoping strong branding across its website -- thetalentbusiness.com -- and other communications efforts will help turn the shop into a destination for people interested in changing jobs and take away the stigma of knocking on a headhunter's door. As one media-industry recruitment consultant admitted: "At some consultants, there's a belief that the best candidates are the ones you root out, not the ones who come to you. Good candidates probably feel the same way."

The consultant doubted that mind-set could be easily changed, but Ms. Gallop and Mr. Stolkin think candidates should be asking recruiters to show them the money. They envisage something akin to a firm of sports or entertainment representatives, offering life coaching and job advice throughout a person's career. "The reason we focused so heavily on the branding here is that if we get this right, the candidates will come to us," Mr. Stolkin said.

While marketers and agencies that spoke to Ad Age were skeptical that one shop could change the recruiting model, they welcomed the effort to break down silos.

Christine Barrett, VP-director of recruiting, Leo Burnett and Arc Worldwide, said marketers are driving the need for a broader approach as they seek different skills. She said she's sought talent with degrees in everything from architecture to space planning.

"It's possible a candidate has the creative elements that could fit your need, but doesn't have it on his or her résumé," said Martin Reidy, CEO, Publicis Modem and Publicis Dialog. "It's something in their DNA. Could a blogger be a copywriter? Yes."

Diverse pool
Linda Sawyer, CEO at Deutsch, which has a record of recruiting multidisciplinary staff, deemed the concept of global recruitment a "huge cross-pollination opportunity."

"There is such terrific talent out there, especially in key emerging markets such as China," she said. "They have a perspective of daily consumption that's very different."

L.H. Whelchel, chief talent officer, Y&R, said marketing talents in several markets -- the U.K., France and Australia chief among them -- are transferable to New York. But he cautioned against large-scale, global talent agencies. "There's nothing like having that personal touch. ... Recruiters need to be able to pull the gloves off and give the good, the bad and the ugly."

The "ugly," one agency executive pointed out, may be that there aren't enough recruits with the skills needed today. The Talent Business hopes it can prove otherwise.
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