EDITORIAL: Skills shortage is letting star staff call the shots

No Mystic Meg was needed to predict that the ad industry would pay dearly for slamming the door on graduate recruits during the recession-plagued early 90s.

No Mystic Meg was needed to predict that the ad industry would pay

dearly for slamming the door on graduate recruits during the

recession-plagued early 90s.



In their struggle to survive, many agencies lost sight of the horizon

and the need to invest in their futures.



The price has been a high one. Just ask any managing director trying to

find a talented account person or planner with a few years’ experience

without having to pay out salaries of lottery-winning proportions.



It is against this background that J. Walter Thompson’s decision to

augment its planning function with outside consultants must be

considered.



For while the agency presents the plan as a way of putting the best

available strategic brains at the service of its clients, it’s very hard

to believe it would have made such a move if earlier industry myopia had

not forced its hand.



The fact is that agencies are counting the cost not only of failing to

sustain a supply of fresh blood but also of changed working

patterns.



The result has been to allow the best talent to dictate its terms.



High-band-width cables are bringing video conferencing and other forms

of sophisticated communication into the home, enabling the top brains to

free themselves from the office and to make the kind of lifestyle

choices that were impossible a few years ago.



What’s more, though the industry shut itself off from a lot of potential

talent, others have been more accommodating. Marketing services

companies and management consultants have moved in to tap the

supply.



The implications of all this are profound and may fundamentally change

the way the industry operates in future. JWT’s willingness to allow

maximum flexibility in the working arrangements for those it seeks to

attract is something other shops may have to emulate.



It also raises the question of planners’ long-term future within

agencies. Will their scarcity lead to planning being offered as a

premium-priced ’bolt-on’ as resources are diverted into boosting

creative firepower?



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