I was delighted with the
news that JWT was going back to J. Walter Thompson. It is their name – earned
over 150 years. I was equally pleased
when I heard that Draft/FCB was going back to just plain FCB; I
wrote about this several months ago.
These changes got me
I am a big proponent of
agencies being called by their principals’ names.After all, clients like knowing that the
people whose names are on the door are going to be involved in their business.There are few, if any, really well known
agency leaders any more – partially because their names are no longer on the
door. I have had candidates ask me about the senior executives at many of the
new agencies.They just aren’t well known.
Once upon a time, when
one got to the top of the profession, their name went on the door.Today not so much.
This is probably a
generational thing.The new company
names are young, hip, modern. The world may be changing and names along with it.Many of the “new” ad agencies are smart and
successful and I am sure they deserve their success. Some do superb work.But, I think that if I were a client, I would
prefer to entrust my business to someplace where the boss’s name is on the
Its only a guess, but one
reason many of the new (some are 20+ years old) agencies don’t have the
principal’s names on the door is because they are trying to be more democratic.Not having a personal name on the door makes it easier if a partner leaves, which
happens with some frequency; corporate names don’t have to be changed in that
case. But having a name like Mother or Taxi or Strawberry Frog or Big Duck (you
get the point) does not lessen employee turnover. Nor do these contemporary
names mean that the work is better or fresher.It isn’t the name that counts, it is always the work.
Agencies which don’t use their principal’s names on the door are at a
big disadvantage because advertisers and others in the advertising business just
don’t know who their executives are.
When you talk to these agencies and go on their websites, there is often a
clever explanation (sometimes not) as to the meaning of their name.But I miss the names of their leaders on the
marquee.The advertising business needs a
new generation of leaders.Unfortunately,
the business has few leaders of stature. I believe that some of these leaders
are known in the creative community, but not so much within the larger
business.Unfortunately, their company
names make and keep them invisible.
We need new
icons in the business.I understand that
by not putting their names on the masthead, the theory is that the whole agency
gets credit.But it isn’t the whole
agency that presents at a sales meeting or to a corporate board. It is a strong
and powerful individual.
I wrote last July, when this merger was announced
that I thought it was a bad idea.I am writing now to say that I am happy that
it fell apart.Months ago, I told a
friend that I couldn’t believe that this awful merger would come to pass.I don’t know a lot about the French side of
Publicis, but I couldn’t believe that Omnicom would give up financial
control.In my opinion Omnicom is the
best run of the major holding companies, partially due to their financial
controls and policies.
Be that as it may, good
Here are five reasons why:
1 1) Creativity
heyday of creativity, in the sixties, the really good creative agencies figured
out how to limit their own bureaucracy.The star system was born.Since
the advent of the holding companies, there are no stars.Adding a humongous bureaucracy on top of the one
that already exists, could not have been good for the business.
22) This merger
may have been in restraint of trade
which limits competition is, in my opinion, restraint of trade. The P/O merger surely would have limited competition.The holding companies have too much power.
3 3) This
monumental merger would have hurt career advancement.
recruiter, we are often given assignments which agencies are unable to fill themselves
– even with their minions of in-house contract recruiters.The problem is that we and they are precluded
from introducing a person who works at any one of the holding company’s
agencies to another within the network.I wrote about this some time ago. And even though, for instance, Publicis, has a
procedure with which its people can apply on line to move from, say, Saatchi
& Saatchi to Digitas, it is an underutilized mechanism.The reason for this is fear of being found
out and being fired by an angry company or boss.
this that recruiters are precluded from sending someone who is working on an
account to any other agency which handles some part of that account.A person working on P&G at Saatchi cannot
move to the Citibank account at Publicis because Publicis is a Procter
agency.(People can move if they get
specific permission from their boss and from Human Resources, but that rarely
happens. And recruiters cannot do it at all, with or without permission.)
4) Publicis and
Omnicom are run quite differently
these networks is well run.Their methods
and systems are right for their own cultures and have evolved over many
years.One of the reasons the merger
fell apart is because they couldn’t agree on who would be running the combined
entity.Neither system would have been
right for the other.The French conduct
business very differently than we do – that is not a put-down; it is just a
5 5) Ultimately
the merger would have caused more consolidation
just as the corporate back offices would be scaled back, there would be
consolidation among their agencies and companies.Each network already has too many redundant
of their companies have the same offerings, the same tools and the same process
(called by different names, but to the same end); this is especially true in
media. But consolidation would not be limited to just media agencies. Publicis
rolled Kaplan Thaler into Publics and LBi into Mr.Youth (now MRY).There would have been more of this. And to what
purpose?Efficiencies don’t justify the
limiting of creativity.
In my opinion, this was
merely a merger of egos.Every one of
the senior executives involved loved the idea of becoming the number one
holding company.It may have mattered to
the principals involved, but the rest of the business could care less.
I spoke a couple of weeks
ago in Cincinnati. One of the questions which was asked at the end of my
presentation was why it is so hard to find qualified candidates.It is a problem in every market and location.
I would like to share
with you three recent situations where the companies made it almost impossible
for me to find good people.And I hope
it helps partially answer this question.
Sometimes hiring managers
are just too fussy and completely limit the ability of professionals to find an
appropriate candidate for their open job.Often job specs they create are really nothing more than generic
descriptions of a job, but have nothing to do with who they want to hire or
what problems they want solved. Bad job specs send everyone on a wild goose
chase. And, very often, the salary budget is not aligned with the experience
needed to do the job.
I recently had a senior
manager call me to ask why I was having trouble recruiting for a fairly senior job
which had been open for what he considered a too long a period of time. (It was
only two months.)During our
conversation I asked who the client company was and what the brands were that
this person would work on (I had previously asked this of the HR Manager, who told me it was confidential).He also refused to
tell me, saying the information was confidential (Effective recruiters know how to handle confidential information). This was not a New York City
agency, so finding someone to work in this suburban location is difficult to
begin with. However, the double whammy came when he described the combination
of experiences that were absolutely mandatory for appropriate candidates to
have. Add to this that I know this is an
agency where they insist on hiring people with category experience.How can I possibly find anyone to work there
– except for pure dumb luck – if I don’t know where or how to look for
them?I know that this manager is angry
with his human resources people and their recruiters for not being able to move
faster.But he has completely ham-strung
To take it a step
further, I asked this gentleman to explain the account issues to me and to tell
me the skills he was looking for. Aside from telling me that there were no
issues (give me a break), he asked me why my knowing this would be relevant.When I told him that I wanted to understand
the criteria he was using to evaluate candidates so I could help him screen for the ability to do the job; he again told me it was not
for me to know.
This is a more common
attitude than I can tell you.
In another instance, I
was working on a wonderful senior job.The assignment came with a three page job description which listed all
the duties and responsibilities.I sent
someone who I thought would be great and was informed that he was not a good
match.He had never had experience working on a major
“icon” account (Coca-Cola, IBM, Apple or the like).I went back and reread the job specs and
description and, of course, this was nowhere in the three pages. In my Ad Age column, I wrote one with the
Better Candidates? Write Better Job Specs.”If a candidate is rejected for a reason that is not listed
in the job specs, the specs need to be revised, since they are the guidelines
used to identify and screen candidates. Most job descriptions are simply that –
descriptions; they fail to deal with the job issues.
When it comes to paying
an appropriate salary, my mother had an expression which she used when I took
too much food on my plate and couldn’t finish. She said, “Your eyes are bigger
than your stomach”.This is often the
case with hiring people; companies want more than they are willing to pay. All too often
the finance department dictates the salary level based on the title. But the
salary doesn’t take into account that there is 65% travel, a fourteen hour work
day and a six day work week, all accompanied by a miserable client.If a company wants to hire someone under
these circumstances, it is good business and smart to pay more than the normal rate.Years ago, when Messner, Vetere, Berger, et
al was in business (today it is HAVAS) they had the MCI account, which may have
been the busiest account anywhere, ever.They always paid a significant premium for good people because of the
insanity on the business.As a result,
they were able to attract good people quickly.
The three examples I gave
are simply the tip of the iceberg.Companies are often their own worst enemy when it comes to finding and
hiring the people they want and need.
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.