Resources, skill-sets and other factors weave into the value cost analysis that’s designed to make us all better advertising agencies in the minds of our clients. But our clients yearn for that we more often than not — break their hearts by not accomplishing? I believe it starts with a huge lie we tell him.
“We have the best people.”
We brag and boast about being the best and crafting the best ideas out of thin air. Instead we don’t know the first thing about creativity and brilliance. And yet we stumble over our selves producing pretty good work if we’re lucky and great work every so often. What we say we’re looking for is the best minds possible and yet we wallow in our own stupidity long enough to keep hiring the same people that look act and think like us, instead of the ones who reveal in their perversity and ruefulness and unique connection with the essence of clarity and creative exchange.
We need more of the crazy ones. The misfits, ideologues and maladjusted misanthropes. By following in the footsteps of Bill Bernbach, Leo Burnett and Lee Clow we can elevate our business and renew our greatness.
We need to hire strangers to normality, ripe in diversity and yes a few straight folks along he way to strengthen the ecosystem. If we make our businesses polymorphic and pleasant to the stench of exotic spices and herbs we will have workplaces teeming with the effects of dynamism, audacity and innovation.
Becoming one of us.
There’s some who would say that getting into the advertising business is limited to those among us with tenacity and drive rare to average individuals. I say that is misguided. What it takes is focus, passion and resilience in the face of growing challenges. But for those young enough to build a life on a diet of Top Raman and the dimmest chance that one day they can develop award-winning advertising, here’s a few tips as to what an agency can do to steer you in the right direction and develop your skills for the game ahead.
Here are my top five tips as to what an agency can do to find, nurture and grow the diversified talent it attracts.
1. Training Programs Begins at Home
Before your first copywriter is assigned, consider the possibility that many successful agencies build their involvement in minority hiring by participating in industry intern programs and high school academies where virtually raw and enthusiastic candidates would sometimes rather teach or chase forest fires than stick to word smithing. Either way the introductory nature of training programs help increase the possibility that a newbie can come into an agency with a better sense of what to expect and whether the business itself is worth their time.
2. Picking Mentors First
The relative success of any hire begins with the value management has for the 1st hired. The more valuable a prospect is the greater the need to insure the candidate has people around her that not only points out the way forward but also helps the neophypte stay out of the poop or at least points to where the shit holes are in the organization. Along the way there is a precious need to learn communication techniques and other tricks that may keep a supervisor from going for your neck when you stopped them from heading to an early lunch that everyone knew about but the newbie.
3. Fight the power
New people, especially off-culture types that don’t know the ins and outs of casual but high pressured office environments, rarely have safe spaces to go to voice opinions that are not popular. Management must learn to embrace deviant perspectives. The idea of having hip hop music blaring during work hours or having a Chinese new year celebration may seem foreign at first, but with tolerance, management can take tiny steps to change the cultural experience so that non-conformed voices may help change the organization for the better. The dissonance that arises in most intolerant climates can be shaped and focused as long as the Keepers of the Culture understand that allowing dissent and different opinions can strengthen the values and traditions of the organization.
4. Never Stop Teaching
Too often getting hired appears as ‘the finish line” for many employees and the truth is its only just the beginning. Employers can help improve the pace and distance of the learning journey by putting in front of every employee seminars, work sessions and development programs to improve their skills and understanding of the work ahead. In truth, training and development remains the responsibility of the employee, but the best agencies and their key people search out the “rising stars” on their team then challenge them to meet new and different opportunities for advancement.
5. Push them out before they’re done.
Agency people rarely stay in the same place very long. Eighteen months is about average, so managers should think beyond current employment status and consider where an employee might go to get a better opportunity. I know retention is important but if we are going to make this business more inclusive we all have to accept that good people move on to greener pastures. Sometimes a good word to an associate can open up an opportunity for one of your best people and in the end you’ll cry when they are gone, but your efforts could cultivate the field for another diverse team member and enhance the career of the person you helped along. Being a mentor is a very good thing.
Here’s a final word for the top ramen guy who wants a job in advertising. Don’t wait to be discovered. Go find your own mentors. Every advertising community has social centers and events. Participate in the activities like you belong there. Getting to know the men and women who are in this business can help spark interest and accommodation if the neophyte you are can become familiar and engaging. Always show up at these events with a sense of awareness and belonging. Make friends. Be impressive. Sometimes dropping in on an agency you would love to work for can open up doors. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Jo Muse is chairman and chief creative officer at Muse Communications