Playing Around with a Crazy Idea

And I’m sure you’re thinking — yeah, like that’s anything new

But hear me out.

What is still one of the biggest issues facing agencies and marketing professionals today?  Talent.  Finding, recruiting and retaining talent.

More often than not, an agency’s future employees won’t just show up at the front door gift-wrapped and sporting a big red bow.  The shop has to go out and find the right person — that right fit for their agency, clients, type of business, etc.

Sure, you’ll get referrals from others from time to time, but in an age where good (if not great) talent is scarce, agency folks are much less likely to share with others in the business.

Sure, the mechanics of the marketing and advertising business can be taught in school, but there are nuances to the business that just don’t show up in a classroom environment.  And even those students who come out of a portfolio school such as Creative Circus or VCU Brandcenter may not be prepared for agency life — particularly in small agencies such as those here in Idaho.

So, how do we get around that?

One option — An intern “exchange program” similar to one that started in Portland a few years ago — COLABORATORY.  The Colaboratory program is designed to give interns a better understanding of the agency world, and specific disciplines within that environment, by spending time in three different agencies over the course of the program:

COLABORATORY takes place over 6 weeks in Portland, Oregon. 10 participants are selected and individually paired with 3 of the 10 agencies based on their strengths and interests. Interns spend 2 intensely focused weeks at each agency learning from all disciplines.

During the 6 weeks working at agencies across Portland, interns also form 2 competing teams to work on a real client project.

The 2 sides of COLABORATORY give interns a broad view of how agencies work, and at the same time let them learn how to collaborate.

A similar program could be established here in Idaho, and managed by the Boise Advertising Federation and / or Idaho Advertising Federation.

Another option — a professional exchange program of sorts.

This would be a bigger effort than a shared internship program such as COLABORATORY.  It would involve many agencies in several different markets, but could be managed by agency network organizations such as Worldwide Partners, Second Wind, MAGNET Global, Pinnacle Worldwide, etc.

Here’s roughly how I imagine it working:

  • The agency network handles initial recruiting and screening of potential candidates
  • Finalists interview in person at nearest partner agencies
  • Selected participants spend 6 months with an individual agency, learning about the business and individual roles / responsibilities, while working for the agency and it’s clients.
  • Upon completion of the 6 months, the participant is able to move to another partner agency, in a different location, and continue learning about the jobs, how different agencies function, etc.
  • Program could last up to two years (4 agencies) — at any time, the current agency has the option to offer the participant a full-time permanent position.

These would be paid positions, of course, and all participating agencies would agree on common salary amounts throughout the course of the program.

In a lot of ways, this would be an apprentice program of sorts.

It would probably be best suited for those just out of school, new to the business, or otherwise able to be relatively mobile over the course of a couple of years (think moving to a different city every six months or so).  Also, it could be best suited for account service, client service, planning or related “client-facing” types of jobs — those where the skills aren’t (or can’t) be easily taught in a classroom environment.

But if it were successful, candidates would have the ability to learn from some of the best and brightest, and apply that functional knowledge wherever they go.  And this type of program has the ability to produce some of the most well-rounded and talented employees available for years to come.

Logistically, is it simple? No.

But, it’s just crazy enough that it might work.

6 Replies to “Playing Around with a Crazy Idea”

  1. I see this working in a bigger city where agency principals are talented and qualified to be making hiring decisions. Here, any Tom Dick or Harry can open an “ad agency” and most of them think they’re not only the owners but also the writers, designers and social media experts. Until they really understand they need talent, they won’t be into an idea like this.

    1. Agreed — but something like this would be more geared toward those who actually understand that they need talent.

      While an intership program like COLAB might be better suited for a bigger city / larger market, I think the other program could work here. As an example, someone could spend six months at agencies in Boise, Portland, Anchorage, San Francisco, Denver, Kansas City, Seattle, etc. They could get a good sense for how different agencies in other markets run their business, and how their job function is a part of that.

      1. Recently an agency in Boise advertised for an award winning designer…. not an intern. After sending a requested resume and a portfolio to the agency, I received this request via email:

        Here are a few questions we’d love you to answer and email back to us.

        1) Why are you interested in this position?
        2) What are the sorts of things you love doing at work?
        3) What are the things you do not like to do, and not want to work on?
        4) Would your friends describe you as more of a dreamer or more of a type A?
        5) What motivates you creatively and where do you look for inspiration?
        6) What it your creative process.
        7) How much would you like to earn in this position? Please provide a specific number or range.
        8) What/who is your favorite cartoon character? Why?

        I’m serious, this is real.
        It’s enough to make one tremble inside about the big time advertising world in Boise.

      2. I forgot this part:

        We can tell you that what we’re looking for is someone who wants to be a kick-ass art director/designer/creative idea generating/thick-skinned/willing to go the extra mile type of person. If you secretly want to be an entry-level production designer or someone who just wants to live in
        a creative environment and drinking vanilla lattes, this position isn’t for you. You won’t enjoy it.

  2. I like it. On the job training is something a lot of people come out of school expecting, but it’s rare to find any training, organized or otherwise, in the ad business. Hence, the need for portfolio schools, but clearly portfolio schools can’t get it done on a wide scale basis. Your vision of a holding company or agency network could help, and such entities would also be helping themselves (to young, proven talent).

  3. I disagree with the premise that finding, recruiting and retaining talent is one of the biggest issues facing agencies and marketing professionals today. Finding and retaining CLIENTS is the biggest issue. Recruiting talent is way down the list (as is training interns) IMHO. Therefore, given the current economic climate, I don’t think this idea is going to get any traction.

Comments are closed.