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
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
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
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