Two former agency bosses, Daren Rubins and Liz Jones, have launched an executive search business, Conker, for the media industry.
Rubins, the former UK chief executive of Omnicom’s PHD, and Jones, former chief executive of Dentsu Aegis Network’s business-to-business arm, say their company’s unique selling point is that they have both been agency leaders themselves.
Conker "has been created specifically for leaders in our industry, by leaders", according to Rubins.
"What makes us different is Liz and I have been leaders at the highest levels," he said. "We understand what kind of talent is needed for businesses to succeed in these challenging times.
"A lot of headhunters are all about the deal. They don’t necessarily have the empathy of having walked in the shoes of business leaders."
Jones said: "Daren and I are united by a philosophy that businesses succeed through talent and we're determined to create something deliberately and refreshingly different with Conker."
Rubins has headhunting experience – he was most recently chief executive of executive search group The Lighthouse Company for about 18 months. Jones has not worked in recruitment, although she has been involved in hiring in previous roles.
The pair will have equal shares in Conker on a 50/50 basis.
They enter a competitive sector with many specialist media headhunters, as well as a growing number of mainstream executive search companies that have been expanding their media practices because digital skills are in high demand.
Rubins believes there is room for Conker, describing the market as "slightly underserved" when it comes to recruiters that know how to help brands, agencies and media owners cope with digital disruption and transformation.
"Marketing is changing so quickly," he said. "What was right last year or even last week isn’t right for this year or this week."
Rubins said there is new demand, in particular, from media owners for chief customer officer and chief data officer roles and from agencies for chief client officers, as well as advertisers looking to raid the agency sector to beef up the media function in their in-house teams.
Conker will be focused on the UK and Rubins described demand for senior media, advertising and marketing talent as "buoyant" despite economic concerns, including Brexit.
"There’s no question that there aren’t going to be more jobs in this market," Rubins said. "What there is is a constant re-evaluation by businesses of what they need – and what they need going forward. I don’t see a slow-up in businesses needing to reconfigure themselves."
Rubins and Jones chose the company’s name during conker season in the autumn.
"Each one is unique and what you see on the outside is very different from what you see on the inside, and it is a play on words because every business is looking to conquer," Jones explained.
They will use independent recruitment consultant Lisa Petchey, a former board director at MediaCom, to lead Conker’s research function.