Friday, April 29, 2011

The Downside of Portfolios On Line

I would like to know anyone's experience with this issue.

All creative people post their portfolios on line now.  However, someone forwarded me a comment, which I will quote here:

         A year ago I received a strongly worded letter from [name of agency] saying
            no freelancer was to ever show work done for them on a web-site to promote themselves. 

            The problem with posting too much info (resume) is that more and more, agencies and       
            clients are searching for their names and sending cease and desist orders. They tell
            you to take their pieces off your site or face legal action. I heard from [client company]
            just today and had to pull 3 samples off. 

Wow!  This is scary stuff.  It would have to be very intimidating to receive a legal letter/email from a major corporation demanding that a creative person would have to remove work they created from their website. 

Creative people have always used their portfolios to show the work they have done. That's how they get hired.  Creative people have web sites which are, technically, public.  But they are not out there promoting the general public to click through.  Those sites are for the convenience of prospective employers.  Clients don’t own an idea that was never presented to them.

I posed this issue to Rick Kurnit, partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC.  Rick is one of the preeminent advertising attorneys in the country.  Here is his response:

         You have to distinguish between contractual obligations and ownership/copyright.

            Generally, a portfolio use of work is a fair use (permissible) with respect to copyright
            even where the ownership was conveyed by the artist as a result of an employment
            relationship or signing a “work for hire agreement” either of which conveys the ownership
            of the work.  But the copyright law permits exceptions under the First Amendment (freedom   
            speech/expression) which is incorporated in the Copyright Act’s provision for Fair Use.  

            The problem is that the artist may by contract agree that he/she will give up any rights to
            publish in any manner….typically the terms that are included in the confidentiality provisions
            of an employment agreement or a  freelance agreement.  One may contractually agree to
            give up First Amendment rights, including Fair Use rights.

This is an important issue for all creative people.  On the one hand, freelancers need the work. On the other hand, it is very easy to sign away your rights in return for the income.  If the work doesn't get produced (or even presented), whose work is it?  This is an issue that all writers and art directors should be fully aware of.

Of course, the client that asked the creative person to pull ads from the website is probably a functionary, not an advertising or marketing person or even a lawyer. I am sure they have software that trolls the net in order to find the uses of their name and products. Does this mean that every college kid who does a spec portfolio using existing products is in jeopardy of being intimidated by a major corporation whose lawyers send a cease and desist letter?  This whole issue is rather scary.  

I would like to hear your opinions and experiences.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reception Can Play An Important Role In Recruiting

I have just come to something.  Observing people’s behavior in the reception area can tell you a lot about a perspective employee.  While candidates are waiting to see you, what they do in the reception area can tell a lot about them. 

Many companies have company literature available in reception.  Are prospective employees curious and interested enough to read it?  Many ad agencies have monitors showing their latest television and interactive work.  Do prospects look at it?  Ditto print work on the walls – do they even look at it? 

Are they friendly with the receptionist?  Did they bring coffee (any of you who follow my blog posts know that this is one of my pet peeves) and, if so, when it is time for the interview, do they simply leave their cup in reception or do they ask to throw it away or do they take it with them?

All of these things may be tell-tale signs of the character and personality of the people interviewing with you. 

In my own reception area, I keep Ad Age and Ad Week as well as a collection of my Ad Age columns.  I observe whether people read any of it while waiting for me.  Not that it is essential, but it tells me about the curiosity of people coming to see us.  Many simply spend their waiting time on their Blackberries, reading and writing emails or playing games.  I am always surprised when people don’t pick up any of the literature I keep out.  I, for one, would certainly want to know about the company I was seeing – I don’t mind being kept waiting when I make sales calls so that I can read the literature or see the work of the companies who retain me.

It might be very interesting to bring your reception people into the process to observe and report.  The demeanor of candidates as they arrive may tell you a lot about their personality, their interest in your company and their curiosity in general.  I am not asking reception to be a spy, merely to be part of the process.

Just a thought. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Some Agencies Don't Do Their Own Branding Well

I was recently interviewing a person who currently works at TBWA/Chiat Day. Of course, like everyone else here in the U.S., she referred to it as Chiat. I am sure that Bill Tragos, U.S. founding partner and the T in TBWA, has fits every time he hears his agency referred to as Chiat or Chiat/Day. I am not sure technically how the merger of the two agencies worked, but I believe Chiat was merged into TBWA, but somehow, in the United States, Australia and a few other countries, Chiat's name and culture dominated. Elsewhere, particularly Europe, the dominant brand was/is TBWA.

Is this a problem? You bet. TBWA/Chiat Day may not think so but, to my knowledge. they have not done much to clarify the confusion, allowing people to call it whatever they want. This includes their own employees. I believe it has to be a big issue, especially in new business. If I were a client, I would want my agency to know who they are, otherwise, how could they tell me who to be?

Which brings me to a several other big agencies.

First, there is Ogilvy. Many of their employees still refer to it as Ogilvy & Mather or O&;M. Their paychecks come from Ogilvy & Mather. How could an agency change its public name, but not its corporate name?
Then there is J. Walter Thompson, which officially became JWT. In my opinion, that is ridiculous. I still call it Thompson, as do most of its own employees. JWT just doesn’t sound right and I can't seem to call it J-W-T  when I am talking about them.
Deutsch, a Lowe & Partners Company. Give me a break. Deutsch has no name anywhere else in the world, but is a wonderful powerhouse here in the United States. Lowe has been subsumed here in the U.S. by Deutsch, which I am sure if fine for the Deutsch people, and maybe even for the Lowe employees and U.S. clients who remain. But Deutsch is Deutsch. They have their own very successful culture and I am sure it has very little to do with Lowe & Partners.

A while back, BBD&O dropped the ampersand, which actually made sense and worked.

Of course I won’t even deal with the silliness of Wunderman becoming Impiric about a decade ago, but at least they had the good sense to change it back fairly quickly.

Over the years there have been many purchases, mergers and new principals which have caused name changes.  Some good, some awful. We have lost many good agency brands through mergers: Bates, Scali, McCabe. Sloves, Ammirati & Puris are just a few.

But my all time favorite was an agency called Altschiller:  I wish I could have been their printer. Here is the progression of its names from about 1977:

Altschiller, Reitzfeld & Morgan; Altschiller, Reitzfeld, Morgan & Jackson; Altschiller, Reitzfeld, Jackson & Solin; Altschiller, Reitzfeld, Jackson, Solin/NCK; Altschiller, Reitzfeld, Solin/NCK; Altschiller, Reitzfeld, Solin; Altschiller, Reitzfeld, Davis; Altschiller, Reitzfeld, Davis/Tracey Locke; Altschiller & Reitzfeld/Tracey Lock;  Altschiller, Reitzfeld and then, in 1994, Altschiller & Partners. Then in late '95 Hill Holliday/Altschiller. And, finally, in 1999, Hill Holliday, New York. Phew!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Plural of Medium is Media

I received a résumé the other day in which the person listed that they have worked in a variety of “mediums”.  That, to me, is like chalk on a blackboard.

The singular of media is medium.  Newspaper, television, digital, radio and out-of- home, are, collectively, media.  That is why the department was/is called the media department.  Each of those means of communication is a medium.  It pains me when I hear people in our industry talking about working in different mediums.

A few years ago I had an exchange of letters with one of the prominent art magazines when they wrote that a collage hanging in someone’s home was made of mixed mediums.  The editor justified it as now common usage.  However, About.com has a nice description of common usage.  I Googled "medium vs media" and several web sites confirmed what I am writing.  I did see one site which said that in advertising the two words were sometimes used interchangeably. Not not in my business or in my dictionary and clearly written by someone who never worked in a media department. In fact,  I have never heard about the mediums department.

I would hate to see someone not get a job because they used the terms medias or mediums in their resume.  While Latin is no longer taught (I took a semester in the eighth grade, but hated it and dropped out in favor of French, thank goodness), I think everyone should know the difference.

Enough said.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lack Of Interview Feedback Is Both Rude And A PR Disaster

I hate when I send candidates on an interview and I cannot get feedback.  There is nothing worse when looking for a job than going on an interview and then hearing absolutely nothing from the company.  It happens all the time. It even happens when we submit a resume and are told, often with no reason, that a candidate will not be seen.

Several years ago, a client from a top ten agency actually said to me, “The trouble with you is that you want feedback on everyone who interviews here and, frankly, I don’t have time for that.”  I tried to explain why a recruiter wants feedback.  I told her that it helps give direction to the search and should save her time in the long run.  She argued with me and then she fired us.

Effective recruiters demand that their clients give feedback.  Common sense dictates that anyone interviewing would like the courtesy of knowing if they were liked or not.  Recruiters like to be able to give constructive criticism to their candidates. And candidates who interview, with or without recruiters, deserve to hear something.

Unfortunately, a huge percentage of clients provide no feedback at all.  Or just as bad, we receive comments which provide no direction or information.  Simply saying that someone was or was not liked really doesn’t help the process. What hiring managers and HR people need to understand is that if the company tells me, “Too tall, to short, too fat, too thin”, I know where to look for them and can also save them time by not sending someone who I had previously thought might be good for the job. 

Sometimes, just in to course of conversation, we receive excellent direction.  Last week, after seeing the first candidate, a hiring manager casually gave me great direction. He mentioned that what he really needed was someone who was very compassionate and nurturing because his client needed TLC.  That was not part of the original job spec (see my Ad Age Article of  August 17, 2009), but gave me an idea for a completely different person.

When the candidate falls into a black hole, it is really terrible public relations for the company.  I received the following email from a candidate who had been interviewed by a president several weeks ago and was told she would be meeting others and then,  neither she nor I ever heard from the agency again.  No feedback, no comment.  Nothing.  This was a very senior executive who was interviewing for the number two account spot in the agency.

            Paul, I hope this finds you well.

            I gather you have yet to get any feedback from [company] as I am
            most certain had you, you would have let me know. I am no longer
            interested in proceeding should they have any interest. Lack of 
           communication, good or bad news, is imperative. I think this reflects
            poorly on the agency and gives a glimpse of their approach    to things.
           I am sure you understand.

She went on to say: 

            I think it important for all involved to remember seeking a job is a two
             way street. I see it as looking for a long term (work) "relationship" and
            hence you need to respect how things are conducted.
            It just has been too long now with no word. Frankly, I don't admire how
           they have kept you in the dark as well. The action just says too much.
          Thanks for understanding. 

The sad part about this for the company is that this very well placed candidate will tell her friends and acquaintances that the agency is rude and ill mannered.

I guess there is no substitute for manners.  And feedback/comments are just good form. Of course I understand that everyone is busy.  But I work with lots of very busy presidents and other senior executives who intuitively understand that a phone call to me - even if it is on my voice mail late in the evening - provides direction to my search.  A short email from the person who did the interviewing or another designated person would have gone a long way towards making the above candidate feel good about the company. Just a simple note.

In my Ad Age column in January of last year, I wrote that agencies should send thank you notes to candidates.  It is so easy to create a template.  And that template would go a long way towards creating good will for the company.

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