Agencies step up recruiting to capitalize on unrest

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Agencies' recruiting aims to capitalize on unrest
Agencies' recruiting aims to capitalize on unrest

It was a rather unorthodox recruiting strategy designed, in the CEO's words, to give people a “flavor of what our culture was all about."

The scheme: deploy ice-cream trucks and carts—emblazoned with the agency's name—to plant themselves across the street from network-owned agencies throughout New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Overall, more than 20 agencies in 12 locales were targeted.

This month the results were announced:  the addition of three seasoned, senior-level digital health marketers to the independent agency's teams in Philadelphia, New York and Chicago.

Leerom Segal, CEO of that independent agency—Klick Health—said the 2013 campaign, which also featured media buys in trade publications including MM&M, continues to help attract talent. “We ended up in conversations with a lot of individuals,” he said. “In fact, I would say we've had over 100 meaningful conversations as a result of this,” in addition to netting about 100 business cards.

To be sure, agencies have long been under pressure to recruit talent to keep pace with trends in the fast-moving digital-media area. Some indie agencies viewed the Omnicom-Publicis Groupe merger, announced last July, as a reason to step up recruitment efforts. The merger spawned an ad giant with combined 2012 revenue of about $23 billion, a market cap of about $35.1 billion, and more than 130,000 employees.

Smaller agencies are using the mega mergers as an opportunity to point out their differences vs. holding-company owned agencies, such as the ability to be nimble, maintain a strong culture, and provide more career growth opportunities and fewer layers and bureaucracy.

These consolidations "have become a pattern in our industry," said Segal, "and I think that anything we can do to take the most creative and talented individuals—talented people that aren't necessarily in environments that appreciate them" will be considered.

The agencies also may be feeling new impetus to stand out in what is a tight, but increasingly mobile, talent market. MM&M's 2013 Career & Salary Survey—for the first time—showed that more respondents intended to seek a new position in the next year than said they intended to stay put at their current jobs.

“We saw the merger of Publicis and Omnicom as an opportunity to appeal to those employees that were nervous about the future of their positions and were seeking something different,” Mary Doherty, VP, administration, in the Chicago office of independent agency Intouch Solutions, wrote in an email to MM&M.

One associate who recently left an agency within one of the newly merged networks to join Intouch said the merger was a factor.

“From a business perspective, a merger of that magnitude leaves people feeling vulnerable because of the redundancy of many positions and departments,” said the unnamed employee, also by e-mail. “Overall there was great concern about the stability of many of the smaller digital agencies. From a personal standpoint the family feeling that I am experiencing at Intouch did not exist at my previous agency and bonuses were only for senior management.” 

To further capitalize, Intouch developed a new recruitment campaign, dubbed “Anatomy of Success,” that employs scientific illustrations of organs to represent various qualities sought. For instance, a fluorescent green brain is paired with the copy, “At Intouch, we're always seeking people with brains—individuals who think creatively and strategically to execute breakthrough ideas.” An image of a heart was used to represent passion, and a stylized liver was paired with a reference to the agency's “rowdy happy hours.”

The images appear on T-shirts, which were handed out at an employee happy hour (along with organ-inspired treats like brain-themed cupcakes), and the agency increased its referral bonus from $500 to $1,500.

Doherty said Intouch went with a word-of-mouth strategy, as “Employee referrals have always delivered the best candidates and proven to be an effective use of our recruitment dollars.”

The campaign launched this month. Early results show the message is getting out on social networks, referrals are up, and visits to the careers section of the agency's website have so far doubled, she said.

“The T-shirts have served as a fun buzz-generator and an effective walking billboard for Intouch,” Doherty observed, adding that “a ‘brain' was recently spotted jogging down Michigan Avenue in Chicago!”

Klick supported its ice-cream initiative with corporate ads and recruitment ads directing readers to careers.klick.com.

Several agencies now under the Omnicom-Publicis umbrella were among locations targeted by Klick's ice-cream men, including Publicis shops Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, Rosetta and Publicis Life Brands Medicus, and Omnicom-affiliated offices CAHG, CDM NY and LLNS, according to Klick.

In some cases, Segal said, discussions had already been under way, “and this acted as validation for them that this was the right organization.” Overall, agency executives were encouraged by the resumes that were submitted.

“The only individuals that didn't really respond well to the campaign were some C-level executives at our competition,” Segal said, “and we're OK with that.”

The CEO is non-apologetic: “Happy people are not out there looking for changes.”

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