Monday, July 29, 2013

The Down Side Of The Publicis Omnicom Merger

I thought I would post this morning, while this news is still fresh and on everyone's mind.

As a recruiter, I can say this merger is terrible for talent.  Since employees of one holding company are not allowed to go to another agency owned by that same holding company, it certainly further limits peoples’ choices.

I have always thought that the prohibition of moving between two agencies owned by the same holding company is probably in restraint of trade.  But the prohibition of moving between the same clients at different agencies or holding companies is definitely in restraint of trade.  This means that if someone is on Coca-cola at one of the IPG agencies, they can no longer go to any agency owned by Publicis or Omnicom.

The holding companies are pretty good at moving very senior talent among their shops – Omnicom does it all the time.  But very senior is defined as probably EVP and higher.  This leaves out the 95% of employees making under $250,000 or so.  In fact, despite the fact that the holding companies all have human resources departments, there really is no mechanism for moving an account executive, writer, art director or media planner among their agencies.  And, the rules being the rules, a writer at DDB, for instance, cannot be employed and then move to BBDO without all kinds of permissions.

While there is a policy in place which allows such moves at many of the holding companies, the rigmarole and paper work makes it both difficult and dangerous to approach management to affect such a move.  This merger only serves to limit the possibilities even further.

I think David Jones, CEO of Havas, put it very well when he said this is bad for clients and employees. (Go to the link to see his full comment.  However, this merger isn’t good   for creativity, it isn’t good for competition.  It will not produce greater marketing thinking.  But, it will be good for the bottom line of the combined company. It will save, according to the various articles, about $500 million.  That is, about a 3% savings for stockholders, which is certainly not a huge; it will hardly affect the bottom line of the combined company. I honestly believe that over the next 18 months, the revenues lost due to conflicts and unhappy clients will more than offset these savings.

The worst part of this whole thing is that I believe it will result in panic buying and merging of the remaining holding companies. Pretty soon there will only be two or three holding companies.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Six Things You Should Understand About Recruiters

So often, about two weeks after I have seen a candidate, I get a call or email asking what I have found for them. I realize that there are tremendous misconceptions about what a a recruiter can do and will do. I thought I would spell out what anyone should expect when seeing a recruiter - any recruiter.

1) Most recruiters work on assignment; they do not market candidates
Recruiters won’t necessarily meet you and then call around trying to get you interviews.  This is one of the great misconceptions about headhunters. Think of it this way, if a recruiter sees ten or more people in a week, it would be impossible to market every good candidate.  The only time they will call someone about you is if they either have an assignment (in which case they should have contacted you to tell you about it), know of a position which may be appropriate or know that something with your background may be needed at a company.  

The best recruiters work on very specific assignments which carry specific job specifications.  If you know a recruiter is working on something which you think you are qualified for, but they do not send you, it is generally because there is something which their client is looking for that you may not have. (If you have not seen that recruiter for a while and your background or salary has changed - call them or email with an update.  It could be that you are now qualified for the job you heard he or she was working on, but the recruiter did not know.)

If a recruiter is industry specific, they probably cannot help people who are not in that particular industry.  Everyday I receive resumes from people who want to get in to advertising.  Because I work on assignment, it is almost impossible to get people an interview who lack experience in my field.

2) Recruiters will call you if they have something appropriate
I have written about this many times.  It is appropriate to follow up with a recruiter periodically, but not every week.  They will call you when they have something for you.  If you are appropriate for an assignment, it would be self-defeating not to call you.

If they don’t call you, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. It means they don’t have an assignment appropriate for you.  Recruiting is like a jig-saw puzzle and the proper people have to be matched to each assignment.

3) It is up to you to keep recruiters up to date
It is frustrating for every recruiter to find out that you have taken a new job and now have credentials that would have been appropriate for other openings they are working on – if only they knew that you had, a) gotten a raise; b) gotten promoted; c) had a change of assignments; d) gotten a new job.  Mostly, they won’t know if you don’t tell them.

Candidates are forever sending me emails that say, “Thanks for your help. I have gotten a new job.  Let’s stay in touch.”  Period.  No details.  I have to write and ask for all the information I listed above so that I can keep my files up to date.

4) Every recruiter does not have every job
You should work with multiple recruiters.  You should find recruiters who you like and are comfortable with and who work with different companies so that you are covered over a wide range of potential employers.  It is self-defeating to put all your eggs in one basket.

5) Most jobs are obtained through networking
Recruiters, in the best of times, only account for about 20% of all jobs.  In this economy it may be an even lower percentage.  Before a company calls a recruiter and has to pay a fee, they will explore openings on their own.  It is important that you have an active and well-connected network and that you work hard to stay in touch with former clients and associates.

6) A recruiter can be a great friend, ally and mentor
When you find a recruiter who you like and trust, more than likely he or she will be delighted to help you in anyway possible, even if they don't have the perfect job for you.  An industry specific recruiter has great insights into people and places. They can often tell you what the history of a job is, even if they don't have the assignment.  They can tell you if your personality is a mesh for the company or the people who you might be working for. They often know what the specific issues are, both good and bad, at any given job.

And, of course, if you are at a company through a recruiter, they can be your best ally.  They can help solve problems, they can clarify and answer questions and, of course, can negotiate on your behalf.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ad Agencies Fail To Lead

I hear many stories about ad agencies and their failure to lead or innovate.  It is especially troubling when they have an opportunity to take the reins and fail to do so.  What follows is just one of many examples I have seen or heard.

Just three years ago, I interviewed a wonderful executive who had been doing mobile marketing and advertising since the mid-nineties; she started in mobile marketing long before most of us even knew it existed.. Not before or since have I met anyone with so much depth in mobile.   I thought she was extraordinary and had some amazing things to say about the future of this medium.  At the time we met, there was very little mobile advertising being done and I thought she could bring her expertise to an ad agency.

I was totally wrong. 

I called five agency presidents who were friends; two were from very sizable firms.  Only one of the five wanted to see her and he was from the smallest of the agencies I called.  The others, in one way or another, said that they didn’t know how to monetize mobile and were therefore not interested.  I told each of them that she could help them do that.  They turned me down and were not interested in meeting her.  The one who did see her told her that he didn’t have the money in his budget to hire her, even as a consultant.

About six months ago, one of the people I called remembered our conversation and asked if she was still available to meet, but she is now leading mobile at one of the major mobile advertisers.  Not surprisingly, rather than dealing with a traditional or even a digital agency, she has taken her business to a mobile shop.

In just these past three years, mobile is now in the forefront of media activity.  At least five ad agencies missed their opportunity to lead and, perhaps, get into the forefront of one of the most important trends in communications.

It saddens me to see that ad agencies can’t seem to get ahead of the curve.  Where are the visionaries?  Why can’t agencies push their clients into new technology and new avenues of creativity rather than waiting for their clients to push them?  Why can’t traditional agencies push themselves?

The traditional ad agencies have ceded innovation to the media and digital agencies, which now seem to be on the forefront of new avenues for communications.  It is a shame that the creative agencies just don’t seem able to get there.  One of the issues is that the creative ad agencies seem to be consumed with their existing day-to-day executional problems while the media agencies are always looking for new ways to grow and build revenues. However, by not leading in innovation, they put themselves at risk of losing even more credibility.

Once upon a time, ad agencies functioned in this domain.  Originally, television commercials were all sixty seconds.  It was agencies who developed the :30” and the :10.  It was agency research departments which developed psychographics and agencies which developed the concept of account planning.  Sadly, during the last fifteen or twenty years, there have been few innovations which have come out of the traditional side of the business.

Can anyone explain this to me and does anyone have a solution?   

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Adventures In Recruiting: The Person Who Cried On An Interview

I just heard this story from a candidate and I thought I would share it.  At the very least it will make you smile.  It is like a scene out of Mad Magazine's, "Scenes we would like to see."

An account supervisor was interviewing at an agency for a notoriously difficult account.  She had been all through her interviewing cycle.  She had seen human resources, the management supervisor, the account director and now she was interviewing with the group director, probably her last interview. 

While she knew that this was a difficult account, she was very interested in the job and thought it would be good for her career.  Each person she had seen painted a rosy picture of the account while briefly mentioning that the client was demanding.

This last interview was the icing on the cake.

The chat lasted about forty-five minutes.  About a half an hour into the meeting the account supervisor asked this group director about the degree of difficulty of the account.  The group director smiled and said that she did not want to hire anyone under false pretenses.  She then began discussing he client.

The client, she said, was very demanding.  If they want you to come for a meeting called at the last minute, you had better be there within fifteen minutes, even a Friday evening at 5:30.  The client could be abusive at times.  If things were not 100% to the client’s liking or expectations, she could expect to hear a ten minute not very pleasant harangue.  

The group director told the account supervisor that she really wanted this person to join the team but wanted to manage her expectations.  The client could often be abusive.  The turnover on the account was high. As she continued to talk about the client, the account supervisor saw that the grouper was getting somewhat emotional.  Her eyes were red and watery.  The more she talked, the more emotional she became.

Finally, the dam broke.  Involuntarily the group director started streaming tears.  Finally, she blurted out, “This account is horrible. But we as a team stick together and it keeps it bearable.”

The account supervisor was dumfounded.  She did not take the job!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why A Hiring Manager May Not Return Your Calls After An Interview

I have a lot of nice clients.  Candidates always are positive about meeting them.  They are cordial, they are responsive and nod their heads yes a lot when interviewing people.  All candidates who interview with them call me to tell me how much they enjoyed the interview and how much they liked the client.  When I ask them about next steps, they all respond that the person they saw, if they were in HR, said they would be passed on to the hiring manager. If they met with the hiring manager, they were told that they would get them back to meet the next person in the interview cycle.

Except, I often know it will never happen.  

There are some people who just don’t know how to end an interview. So they give good news, which they know that the interviewee wants to hear.  And they do this even when the candidate doesn’t pass muster.
These are just plain nice people and they don’t want to give bad news.  (That is one reason why they pay recruiters; we can be the bad guy and tell the candidate the bad news.)

These people don't return calls or emails; even when they have told the candidate to contact them the next week.  When the call or email is made, there is no response.  The interview seems to have gone into a black hole.

Unfortunately, this leaves the interviewee perplexed and angry. After all, the last thing they heard was that there would be next steps.  And if there is a recruiter involved, candidates often think that we or they have done something wrong.  Candidates often ask me what went wrong or why the person they met would have said that in the first place. There is no real answer. 

In truth, sometimes the company subsequently  meets people who are better qualified or who are a better cultural fit or who they just like more. Sometimes, there are multiple candidates and they decide to limit the number of next interviews.  But very often, these are just nice people who are not trained in interviewing and don’t know how to end things.  I was always taught that it is better to respond and get it off my plate than leaving these people hanging until they give up; but not responding only breeds frustration and anger.

The easiest way to end any interview is by the interviewer simply saying to the candidate, “Thanks for coming in.  I really enjoyed our conversation.  We will get back to you (or your recruiter will get back to you) with next steps as soon as possible.” That is non-committal but polite.  And it is certainly better than raising false expectations.  Of course, this means that the person who made the commitment to "get back" has to do so.

I recently had a client do that to me about one of my candidates.  Even went so far as to tell me that my candidate was the lead candidate.  They told me that for three weeks; I kept calling because they told me that my candidate would go back for further interviews.  Then, they blind-sided me and told me that they had actually hired someone else a week before.  It would have been better for all involved if the candidate had not been kept dangling and hoping for three weeks.

But that is human nature and the recruiting business. 
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