Media Perspective: Agencies must look further afield to spot the real talent

I hope you will forgive this, but I'm going to write about three friends of mine, not because they're friends, but because they represent an interesting and welcome broadening of our little media, marketing and advertising world, and I hope it's a phenomenon that will grow.

The first friend is Dan Hon - he's not the longest-standing person in advertising, having arrived at Wieden & Kennedy only a few weeks ago. He's interesting because he's not a traditional ad person in any way, which used to be hugely apparent from his Twitter stream - his specialist area is games. His previous job was at a company he started himself, making games that crossed platforms from the world to the web, from phones to the telly. It was here he worked on a project with Penguin books called We Tell Stories - which is almost guaranteed to pop up in any presentation about best practice in "transmedia". I bet you've heard about it.

Which brings me to friend number two - Jeremy Ettinghausen - who was the person at Penguin who commissioned We Tell Stories. He's joining Bartle Bogle Hegarty very soon as a creative director. That's quite a leap after more than ten years as a publisher, even if it was a decade at the forefront of developing digital content.

And the third is Max Gadney, a designer and design thinker who, after years working at the BBC and designing World War II infographics in his spare time, is going to Hall & Partners as a creative director. Think about that for a second. A research company hires a heavyweight designer - it is paying a presumably reasonable amount of money to someone who is not gathering or analysing data, but is just responsible for the design of that data, for how it's presented to customers. Now that is worth noting.

Now, you can take my word for it, all these people are excellent at their jobs, but that's not really my point. And it's not the particular areas they're going to be working in - games, content and design (though I'm going to devote the next three columns to looking at those areas). The thing I think is so exciting is the fact that adland is finally, properly, recruiting talent from a new generation of surrounding and allied trades: senior people with no advertising background at all but a real ability to wrangle the sort of content our customers and clients care about.

It might be that this is one of advertising's big moments of opportunity - as one of the first industries to slash people when the recession struck, we seem well placed to absorb new talent from slower-moving industries and gather the people who will nudge us into new areas of opportunity. Traditional talent might be moving on from adland, but these chaps aren't, and they're the future.

- russell@russelldavies.com

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