Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why Are Account People Turning To Digital?

The advertising job market is sluggish, at best.  But digital advertising is growing dramatically.  It is where the jobs are now.  I have watched as account executives, account supervisors and their creative counterparts have abandoned the general advertising market for the digital world.

Many of these people falsely believe that digital is the entire future of advertising and communications.  They want to be there.  We have seen all of this before, not with digital, but with other advertising disciplines.  In the eighties there was tremendous growth in direct marketing.  People ran to it because of its accountability.  Then there was promotion; people ran there because it showed results.  The proponents of these disciplines proclaimed that advertising was dead.  And then there were the dot coms.  Each of these trends rises and then takes its rightful place as a tool of communication.  So it will be with digital.  

People are running to digital because it is, well, sexy.  For now.

Who knows where it is going or what it will be in a few years.  What we do know is that the field is growing and that growth has its own allure.  The problem with digital for those trying to build a career there is that it is highly tactical and executional.  Digital is only strategic in the sense that it takes its direction from other elements of communications and advertising.

However, the trend cannot be denied.  I suspect that much of the lure of digital comes from inherent dissatisfaction with the advertising business as it has evolved.  Once upon a time, people were drawn to the advertising business by television programs.  When I first started recruiting I had lots of people tell me that they were attracted to the business because of Bewitched.  I suspect that Mad Men is doing the same.  But the reality of the business differs dramatically from the perceptions created by these wonderful programs.

There is very little fun in the business these days.  There are no longer water fights (literally and figuratively) in the creative departments.  Account people rarely entertain their clients and three martini lunches are only a distant memory.  Going on a store-check with your client in order to bond with them and discover the realities of the retail market place just isn’t done any more. Road trips to go on shoots used to be a reward for hard work; often with a few extra days at the location.  Today, they are merely continuance of that hard work with little free time built into the process.  

Most important, account people are not exposed to the true strategic and creative process until they are in the business for many years.

Once upon a time, every young account person was given creative projects of their own.  It might have been trade advertising.  It might have been some sub-set like handling the military and premium advertising for a brand.  I can remember being given total responsibility for Canadian advertising of one of my clients.  Canada was mine.  So was the Toronto client. I was so proud to do this.  I was in my early twenties.  It build both pride and experience.  (Years later, long after I left the agency, I was asked to my Canadian client's daughter's wedding.)

It just doesn’t happen today at most agencies.

Consequently, I believe many young people are drawn to digital in search of the excitement, pride and creativity that they thought they would have in the general advertising world.

I am sure that in time they will discover that all that glitters is not gold.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Your Tweets And Posts Can Cost You A Job

It is possible that something you post or tweet could cost you a job.  No matter how innocuous it may seem.
We have all read about people checking out your on-line postings.  But now there are actually companies which are being hired to report on what you say and do.  It is frightening.

It goes way beyond advertising.  Apparently, there are firms now hiring individuals or companies to do social media background checks of potential candidates.  I don’t think advertising agencies are there yet, but surely it will happen.

The way it works is that the potential employer sets up criteria against which these companies should check and screen applicants to insure that they are hiring the "right kinds" of people. Your Tweets  and your Facebook comments are public record.  Something you did or said (or that was done or said about you) remains permanently for others to see and check.  So that means that the proverbial photo of you taken when in college with the lampshade on your head   could prevent you from obtaining a job, even many years later.

If you posted derogatory comments, even if true, about a high school or college friend or enemy, they become part of the public record and could come back to haunt you.  Even your politics, religious beliefs and other highly personal information and opinions become public information once posted on-line. Anything you have said or done could prevent you from getting a job.

Many big businesses hire companies to check on potential employee education, finances, criminal history and the like, but this new twist on background checking is, in my opinion, going a step too far.  Unfortunately, it is reality.

As a recruiter, I have seen many candidates rejected because of badly written thank you notes, or misspellings in writing samples.  The sad part is that most companies will not share the reasons for the rejection.  So, as a consequence, the job applicant may never find out why they have been rejected.  It is certainly the same with the social media.

My suggestion to everyone is that you go and examine your tweets, postings and blogs and delete anything you do not want a potential employer to know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why New Business Directors Turn Over So Rapidly, Part II

I previously wrote about why new business people turn over so quickly.  I reread the post the other day after interviewing a very successful new business director who had recently been let go.  Like all CMO’s, the heads of new business have rapid turnover.  I realize that I had previously addressed only some of the issues, so I thought I would complete my thoughts here.

Some agencies approach the hiring of new business people as a “quick fix”.  The principals of the agency know full well that it takes months, even years to cultivate a prospect.  

Many agency principals are egocentric enough to believe that no matter what a new business person does for him or her, it is always that principal who brings in the business.  So what do they need a new business person for?  The answer is complicated, but the simple version is that new business people do for the agency management what management cannot or have not done for themselves.

The first thing a new business person or marketing director does is to learn that agency’s business.  They do this so that they may properly position and sell the agency. Learning the business may entail spending hours with creative people, planners, account people and others who are involved with running accounts and pitches.  It may take weeks, if not months, to learn the strengths and weaknesses and processes of an agency.

Secondly, the new business person has to develop the tools for presentations, RFP’s, etc.  Quite often, agencies lack the necessary case histories and other information required for the new business chase – Power Point presentations, material needed to fill out most questionnaires.  Developing this material may also take months.  (I know one new business person who spent over six months just getting the agency to agree on how to position itself.  It took another three months to develop materials.)

Finally, they have to develop a prospect list. This often leads to tremendous disagreements. But this list is critical to the process.  But when finally determined, it is time to start prospecting.

The problem is often that by the time the new business person is in full swing, doesn’t matter if it is a month or six months,  management often gets antsy for results.  And these expectations often get in the way.  We all know that it takes years to cultivate prospects.  So realistically, if it takes six months for the agency new business person to get into full swing, that means that results may not happen for a full 18 months.  Many companies, despite protestations to the contrary, are not prepared to invest for that long.

So what happens? During the 18 months, business turns down and management looks at cutting costs.  Well then new business material is complete, the prospect list has been developed and some have been cultivated.  And the agency CEO or COO or ECD decides that he or she can take over the new business program so the marketing director becomes expendable.  After all, they are not directly tied to an account. 

But what is often forgotten is two-fold: first, while a new business person is not directly tied to an account, they are indeed tied to revenue, even if it is not measurable.   Second, few CEO’s have time for all the prospecting and cultivation. They are tied up on the exigencies of their day-to-day business. New business momentum takes time to build. (I learned when I ran an agency that if I stopped spending a huge percentage of my time on new business for even three weeks, that it took six weeks to catch up to where I should have been.)  If account hunting is given up for even four months, it may never recover.   

So when the agency gets ants in their pants over the current new business person, it lets him or her go and then what does the agency do?  It hires a new new business person and starts all over again.

And that is the definition of insanity.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Never Underestimate The Role Of A Spouse In The Hiring Process

I recently had a candidate who had had his final interview and was about to get an offer.  He and I had discussed all the pros and cons of the job and he was very enthusiastic.  Then, on the Monday I was expecting to make the offer, he called to tell me that the job was too risky and he was no longer interested. It was a totally unexpected comment.  I discussed the risks of the job with him (there were virtually none) and he would not budge.  An hour later, after I had collected my thoughts, I called him back to determine how this issue developed.  He told me that over the weekend, we decided that it was too risky.

unhappy.jpg image by jodygo

I understood that the "we" meant his spouse was involved with the decision. I also understood that I had never considered this aspect of the job placement because, honestly, there was/is less risk in this job that most that I recruit for.  It just never crossed my mind to talk to him about his spouse.   

Lesson learned.  

Recently I heard about an out of state candidate who was about to be flown to New York for a final interview.  He had been interviewing for a partnership and senior position with this company for weeks.  Suddenly, he dropped out – his wife did not want to relocate.

These situations gave rise to this post.  It is a very common phenomenon.  Spouses, significant others, even extended family can play a huge role in the recruitment process, especially when it comes to specific aspects of the job – salary, relocation, lifestyle, risk. 

Candidates who are job hunting generally set the expectations of their spouses or family at the beginning of their search. They commit to these people in terms of their own goals and expectations. I have seen worldwide account directors promise spouses and family that their next job will have minimum travel. Others promise that their next job will pay significantly more than they are currently making. Some promise not to uproot their family. Sometimes these assertions are often unrealistic in the marketplace, but nonetheless, they become engraved in stone.  When a job offer is made that is in conflict with previous assertions, the candidate has to find a way to give themselves permission to accept the job.  (That is one of many reasons why it is wrong for companies to knowingly offer a lateral move to a candidate, unless there is some other compensating factor, like guaranteed bonuses, stock, promotion, etc.)

Jobs which require extensive travel, jobs with late night or early morning phone calls (say, a foreign based client) or other issues that may affect lifestyle might impact severely on a marriage or relationship.  It is important that spouses be on board right from the beginning.

Ideally, of course, candidates will have brought their significant others or family into the loop at the beginning of the process.  But that often doesn't happen.

The problem for companies is that they never know what the candidate has or has not committed to their friends and family.  If they are there through a recruiter they cannot even be sure what the recruiter told the candidate about the job (if the headhunter has complete information).  And if the candidate was found through networking or from a direct call from someone within the company, it is hard to determine what the candidate knows or does not know about the job.

At the beginning of the process it is important re-articulate the job specs to the candidate to be sure everyone is on the same page.  It would be completely fair for hiring managers of human resources to determine what the candidate knows about the job. 

Companies habitually ignore questions about spouses during the interview process.  I think there is always an assumption that these discussions have already taken place and that the spouse knows all about the search.  It isn’t necessarily so.  It would be appropriate once the job is reiterated,  if questions like, “What does your spouse say about this job?” or, “Does your spouse know about this opportunity?” were asked early in the process.  By forcing the issue up front, it could avoid significant problems during the offer stage – in fact, the answers to those questions might affect making an offer.  And they certainly might affect a candidate's ability to accept the offer.

It is a shame for a company (and the candidate) to waste their time interviewing if the job does not match their needs or expectations.  And a lot of time can be saved by determining these things up front.

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