For some months, recruiters have been battling to put bums on seats
in the theatre of media sales. The ad managers down in the stalls have
been in particularly short supply, but it has still come as something of a
surprise to see gaps appearing up in the boxes, where the ad directors are
supposed to sit.
The Sun, The Mirror and newly restructured Emap Advertising have all been
looking for a top quality ad director since March. Clear Channel
International is also thought to be on the hunt for a big-hitter to fill
an international sales director role. Naturally, these would all be
enormously challenging roles but they are also prestigious jobs that would
elevate the selected candidate to the very top of their trade - which
makes it remarkable that none of them have been filled as I write
There are individual reasons why each post might be hard to fill, but
there are also ’issues’ common to all three jobs.
In each case, given the calibre of the candidate being sought, there are
probably only a dozen people in the industry who are genuinely suited to
the job. That means the recruiters are fishing in a very small pool.
At this very senior level, potential candidates will have formed very
strong opinions about who they will and won’t work for, and are often
entrenched in the ranks of their current employer. So out of that notional
’dozen’, a handful would not even consider the post in question.
The grapevine in our business is a powerful medium and this can also cause
problems for the recruiters. If the vacancy is not filled quickly, rumours
of people turning down the job abound, making prospective candidates
increasingly wary of the role.
It is also questionable whether the right recruiters are being used. Media
owners seem to have a tendency of turning to one of the City headhunting
companies when they need to fill a top spot. I doubt these City outfits
know as much about potential candidates as the bosses who are doing the
I have also heard people blame a dearth of talent in the industry for the
unfilled vacancies, but I’m not sure I buy that. There are plenty of
bright, enthusiastic and well-connected sellers, buyers and planners in
the business. What might be worth scrutinising, however, is how well they
are being brought through the ranks.
Perhaps the bosses at The Sun, The Mirror and Emap have over-estimated the
quality of candidates outside their organisations and underestimated the
quality of those within. It is always tempting to look around but these
media owners might have been better appointing one of their own.
Recruiting internally sends out all the right messages. Great managers
frame great succession plans.