4A's Conference

Media Agencies' Rising Stars Think the Industry has a Perception Problem

At 4A's Transformation, Considering How to Stop a Revolving Door

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Media agencies have a perception problem among young industry staffers -- perhaps with some reason.

MEC's Jennifer Hoffman
MEC's Jennifer Hoffman

"All agencies are basically the same when it comes down to what we're doing, and it's a revolving door," said Jennifer Hoffman, a senior digital associate at WPP's MEC and one of seven "rising media stars" on the final panel at the 4A's Transformation conference in New Orleans on Wednesday. "So how do we make our agencies different?"

Agency leadership needs to help young talent develop and engage, Ms. Hoffman suggested. "We want to try different things," she said. "The only way to do that is if you let us."

She suggested rotating staffers among roles and departments, more willingness by leaders to empower younger talent and a culture that fosters inspiration. "It will benefit the clients as well," Ms. Hoffman said. "They want new minds and experiences on accounts. When we do these rotations we'll discover our passions. We will be inspired. And inspired leaders are leaders people follow."

Training agency talent to pay attention not only to what's happening in the media industry but also on Wall Street and on clients' businesses should also be a priority, said Lauren Johnson, an associate director at Publicis Groupe's MediaVest.

Highlighting an industry issue that also presents an opportunity for someone to make a mark, John Koenigsberg, a media supervisor at Publicis Groupe's Razorfish, recalled how he was served the same ad for a local supermarket 12 times while watching "The Bachelor" on a streaming platform.

"The Bachelor" is "premium exposure," he said. "I think we're at a place where we need to know someone streaming something in a Hyatt probably is not shopping at a local supermarket. It was not an intelligent use of clients' dollars. But it makes it more exciting for anyone in our position coming into the agencies."

Still, it's only exciting if talent can recognize the opportunities that exist in media, a number of panelists said.

"Nobody understands that there's a whole other section of media," said Trevor Guthrie, director of OMD's Ignition Factory East. "We're at the epicenter of digital and technology and we manage investments for clients. We're doing hackathons and start-up incubators."

Perception issues aside, one thing the industry can count on is a more diverse group of leaders coming up. "We're already more diverse than yesterday's panel," Mediavest's Carolina Palomino said lightheartedly, referring to a previous on-stage talk by the six top media agency leaders -- all white men.

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