Agencies' fight for talent is on
A view from Claire Beale

Agencies' fight for talent is on

Agencies have their work cut out for them if they want to remain the best place for advertising people to work.

Jeez, that’s a brutal quote from Gerry Moira in this issue:

"If I were starting out now, I’d much rather be client-side. It’s the future," he says. "Agencies have had their day."

Right, let me give you some context. Marketers are raiding the ad industry for strategic and creative talent. But they’re not attacking under the cover of darkness, dragging agencies’ most alluring execs off by their plaits and bushy beards.

They’re luring them with interesting, complex and fulfilling challenges. And bloody fat pay cheques. In the US, it’s already a thing.

Apparently, well over half of all members of the Association of National Advertisers now have in-house agencies.

OK, there are agencies and there are agencies, and they ain’t got David Droga or David Lubars or any of the other cherries (though, admittedly, Apple did snaffle Tor Myhren from Grey). But still. It’s early days.

This is bad news for an agency community already strapped for good people. If Moira’s right (and I reckon he knows a thing or two about this), agencies aren’t quite as nice places to work as they used to be.

More and more talent are putting their hands up to go client-side. Pick me, pick me.

So there’s a big job on if agencies want to remain the best place for advertising people to work. (Even a couple of years ago, I would never have imagined I would write a sentence like that.)

Anyway, thankfully sometimes it works the other way round, and marketing’s loss is adland’s gain.

It’s almost ten years since David Patton left Sony to join Grey. Patton was never an obvious adman, which is curious because he was one of the most brilliant marketers of his generation when it came to creative empathy, putting his name to the superb "Balls" ad for Bravia, created by Fallon.

He has never had the easy charm and slick style of the born-and-bred account man. Instead, he brought with him to Grey all the knowledge of big business that so many agency chiefs lack: risk management, retail, customer service, negotiations with commercial teams, patience, and on and on.

He’s a thoroughly decent man, too, I hear. No surprise, then, that he’s helped drive an amazing turnaround at Grey and is now off to attempt the same at Y&R. He’s clearly a man who relishes a challenge, because this is one heck of one.

Sure, you’d never have put money on him pulling it off at grey-by-name Grey – yet he did. But the thing is, back then, even though Grey wasn’t a talent magnet, advertising was. Not so much any more. And persuading brilliant, smart people to join a network such as Y&R (rather than, say, Facebook or Unilever or Lego) is harder now than it was.

Now, more than ever, the agency world should be egging him on.