There is a saying among
recruiters and human resources people that a candidate is only as good as his or her last job. That
is why your most important job is the one you have now.
When looking for a job, all
companies, not just ad agencies, are looking to see how successful you are
likely to be if you join them. They measure your potential based on your
previous successes, including your current job. You have to be successful
where you are now – even if you hate it.
If it turns out that you are in the wrong
place, you must do the best you can do where you are. Never give up. You must build a record of achievement.
And, most important, you must be able to describe that success as you
interview. (It is why people who just complain and are negative on an interview
Even if the job has been misrepresented, your boss is an idiot, your client is impossible or all of the above, you must achieve success where you are and be able to articulate those achievements. You should be able to tell why you are looking in just a few words, without being negative, but at the same time tell what you have accomplished, even if you have been there only a short time.
The trick in moving forward
is to know what you want and to be able to make connections between what you
have previously done and what you are looking for.If you want something that you don’t have,
e.g. if you are on the client side and want an agency (or vise-versa), you know
that ad agencies are reluctant to hire
if you connect what you have been doing to the essence of what you want, you
may find yourself with a job offer.For
instance, if you are a client, it isn't enough to say that your favorite part of the job is working with the agency; you must be able to convince agency people that you belong on their side of the business. Or, in another instance, if you want package goods and don’t have it butare able to relate your strategic experience
to the account you are interviewing for in very specific terms, you stand a far better chance of success.
I have written (ranted and
raved, actually) about the bugaboo of category experience. But if you can make what you are doing now relevant to where you want to go, you may succeed in getting a new category.
The trick is to articulate what you do in a successful manner and relate it to the person/account you are interviewing with. Making difficult changes can happen by the force of your personality. I have known
many people who have done the almost impossible – moving from client to agency,
from non-package goods right to Procter or Unilever, etc. They do it
because when they interview they are definite, sure of themselves and can
convince their interviewers that taking a chance on them is no risk at
all. The way they do it is by articulating the connections between where
they are, what they accomplished and where they want to be. They make
their successes relevant to the potential new job.
Sometimes, it has to be a
multi-step process.I have known people
who have taken a step back in their careers, both in title and in money so that
they get what they really want. I have always believed that in a career,
there is an important thread and that one thing leads to another.
However, in evaluating any new job, every person must ask themselves these questions: "What if I hate this job and leave it quickly? What will it get me in terms of my career? Where will it lead me?" And, finally, ask yourself if you can succeed.
Just remember, even if you
hate your current job, it is critical to your future that you do it to the best
of your ability.
September, 2011, I wrote about agency websites,
but at that time I was being tactful.Many months
have passed and I cannot hold back any longer.
I assume that the first place any potential account, search
consultant or potential employee looks for information about a company is its website.The website should make people want to work
there, hire the company or at least think positively about it.
Instead, the essential information people are looking for is
almost never there.Once upon a
time, the only source of agency information was the Redbook.This essential
reference is still published and contains most of the information that anyone
would want to know at a preliminary glance.
When I look on an ad agency website, I want to know the following:Who are the principals?What are their accounts?How big is the shop?If it is a big firm with multiple offices,where are their offices, what accounts and what people are in which office?What is their address?
Sadly, most web sites are missing some of this information. I came across one well known agency where there is none of it.
Ad agency websites should be easy to navigate. Yet when one logs on to the sites of most ad agencies, at 99%
of them, their essential information is either buried or, if it is there at all, it is almost impossible to find, often hidden behind some obscure reference.
Typical of the issues: One agency lists its principals, but one cannot determine which offices they are in. Another, lists its accounts under "key players", but doesn't tell who the principals (I presume they are the "key" players).Sometimes, I have found agencies that don’t
even bother to list their address; they merely give an email address to get
more information so that you have to contact them to get simple facts. Why don’t most agencies list their senior
executives?Are they worried about
headhunters like me recruiting them? (Don’t worry, I am professional and experienced
enough to find anyone and I don’t need the website to point me to them.)
I went on one website of a creative New York agency today
and found mostly gibberish.It contained quotes with irrelevant personal rantings by their unidentified executives.But I could not find the name of the CEO.I finally found what I think are their
accounts, listed as partners. Nice to call clients partners, but they aren't and might even cringe at the thought of being called partners.
I have been trying to find out why there is a disconnect
between the website and the Redbook
listing and I think I have figured it out.The Redbook information is
delegated to either the financial or the HR department. Those people simply answer the questions provided by the publisher and fill out the appropriate Redbook supplied forms.On the other
hand, the website design is generally given to the head of digital or, worse, an
outside design company.These people have no
idea what the site is really used for or how it is used so they become
“creative”. The result is that site design overwhelms
Websites, if I may say so, should be exciting, loaded with
usable information and be a reflection of the philosophy and strengths of
the company posted.Instead, I truly
believe they are mostly The Emperor's New
Clothes.If I were a client or
potential client, I would think twice about hiring a communications company
which cannot project itself in a cogent and easily navigated format.After all, if they can’t sell themselves, how
can they sell a client's product or service?
There are pros and cons with open plan seating.I could take either side, but I think my
preference is for most people having their own private space.My daughter, Liz Gumbinner, who is an EVP
creative director at Deutsch, says that I am old fashioned because almost every
ad agency has open plan seating in one form or another.And it has been this way for many, many years.
On the pro side, agencies save money by not constructing and
having to move walls.They tell me that
clients and new business prospects like to hear the hum of the office which is
far more evident when there are no walls.Popular wisdom is that ad agencies believe open plans foster more
interaction and therefore, more creativity.
Creative people have always worked in teams.So when they work, mostly they go to some
private space where they can create without interruption.And therein lies my issue.
I believe that open plan seating originated in Japan.As I recall, the first agency to employ open
plan seating was the old Chiat/Day. When Jay Chiat did this in the 1980’s, it
was quite an innovation here in the States.Its purpose was to foster interaction between people and to generate
more creativity.His agency always
pushed the boundaries of creativity and open plan was a major innovation and a
reflection of that philosophy.
But the U.S. is not Japan.
Japan is a homogeneous, highly structured society.Open plan was an effort to get workers there
to talk to each other and to interact together – something which may not be necessary
here in the U.S.Whether we have walls
in our offices or not, we are much more open than the Japanese.
Open plan was adopted, first by the more creatively driven
agencies, and during the last decade, as the big agencies have had their leases
expire and they have moved to new space, they, too are moving to open plan. What was right for Chiat/Day in the 1980’s,
may not necessarily translate to all agencies.Especially today.
I honestly believe that tearing down walls does not
necessarily generate creativity or even good ideas.It doesn’t foster interaction among people,
except those immediately adjacent to each other.Interaction is something which has to be in
the DNA of a company and in its people.
If I were an account person today, I would still not want to
listen to my cohorts talking to their clients or their friends. I would not want to hear the hum which
accompanies open seating.I would want
the privacy to think, to strategize – to create.
I am curious to know whether you think that open plan
seating works for your agency and, if so, does it work for all departments?
A couple of weeks before Christmas, I had a candidate say a
remarkable thing to me.It rang true and
is worth repeating.We were talking
about ad agency silos and integration.Here is what he said:
has spent a fortune tearing down walls and making our offices into an open-space plan. The place looks great. But there is one problem. The walls may be gone but the agency is not
integrated. It is interesting, but the
traditional [above the line] people
have some interest in learning digital and interactive. But the digital people haven’t the slightest interest in learning traditional advertising."
And therein lays the problem.If I had said it myself, I could not have
said it better.
Agencies are wracking their heads trying to integrate and
end the silos.Some of the silos are
financial and they cannot be broken down until each discipline no longer has
its own balance sheet.
But the silos are also real in terms of psychology.Integration is an attitude.It is a way of thinking about the business.
This attitude must come from the top down, but sadly, the people running ad agencies (both
traditional and digital) mostly come from one discipline or another.By training, they are not integrated and
media neutral.And despite talking the
talk, many do not walk the walk.
While the majority of agency CEO’s understand the need for
integration, they are not necessarily yet integrated in terms of their own
thinking.And that has to happen before the walls come down.
The traditional agencies are still trying to figure out how
to make money on social and mobile media.Meanwhile, the media agencies are usurping this realm from both the
traditional and digital shops.
The holding companies may be partially to blame for the lack
of integration – after all, their interest is in revenues and profits and if
their own media companies can do it more efficiently than their other agencies,
it makes no difference to them.There is
so much financial pressure put upon the traditional agencies by the holding companies that it is difficult
for them to invest in new media.Ironically, traditional agencies are in the best position to integrate in the most
beneficial way for their clients, but my observation is that they continue to fall
behind due to financial pressures, which are preventing them from investing in the future.
I hope that in 2013, ad agencies figure it all out.
1)I wish everyone a
banner year, filled with new accounts, profits and great work.
2)I wish that
agencies figure out how to negotiate with clients so that they can makeenough money to insure a fair
profit and to service their clients in a manner which maximizes the
relationship and the work.
3)I wish that
agencies were confident enough to say no to clients when necessary and yes when
it is sensible to do so.
4)I wish that agencies would
hire the best people for the job, regardless of their background.
5)I wish that
agencies figure out how to truly get to know their clients’ business so that
they can once again become marketing and sales partners.
6)I wish that
agencies practice what they preach: their only asset is people.People need to be valued, coddled and nurtured.
7)I wish raises for
all those executives who are long overdue.
8)I wish that the
truly best agency is hired at the end of every pitch.
9)I wish that the
silos truly came down and agencies learn to become integrated and media
10)I wish that
agencies should go back to the system of executive account rotations which were
in effect years ago.This would lower
turnover by eliminating the need for executives who feel stale to have to seek
new jobs in order to renew themselves.
President of The Gumbinner Company, executive recruiters for advertising. Glass collector. Former Chairman of Urban Glass. Blogger: www.viewfrommadisonave.blogspot.com; Contributor to Ad Age and Adweek.