FORUM: Should agencies recruit creatives from diverse backgrounds?

Stefan Schmidt

Stefan Schmidt

Creative partner

Springer & Jacoby International

Finding good copywriters in London is as hard as it is in Germany.

This is a really big city. The only way to do it is to open up the doors

and let people in who are crazy about advertising. But I don’t believe

in taking a copy test, which I think leads you in the wrong


It gives the feeling that advertising is just about telling jokes.

’The only way to find out if someone will work is to let them in and try

them out. After six to eight weeks, I know if someone is going to be

something or not.

’In my experience, you won’t find a copywriter just because they’re in

an advertising school. I recently found a guy who was doing an economics

course. He had crazy red hair and looked like a skateboarder. I thought

to myself, ’This guy is definitely wrong in economics.’ He wanted to

have an internship in an agency, and I suggested he come to my

department and write some ads. He started in April last year and, after

two months, I turned it into a real contract. He is now a rising star in

our Hamburg agency.

’When people are very young, they don’t know what they want to do and

there is nothing bad in that. They should surf around for a year or


We try to get people from all over the place.’

Peter Souter

Executive creative director


People who write the best ads are mad about ads. It’s all very well

saying, ’let’s attract brilliant playwrights, actors or stand-up


But the chances are when they try to write ads, they can’t. Everyone is

fond of quoting people like Salman Rushdie as interesting figures who

were in the business. But they never wrote any great ads. They just went

home and concentrated on doing their novels.

’I don’t care where my people come from but they must have a book. My

problems are short-term and I need someone who is a self-starter. AMV’s

website contains a section about how to put together a book, which we

point people to when they contact us. Agencies are looking for the best

raw material to hire.

’Copywriting is a learnable skill. Anybody who has some talent can teach

themselves the art. There is a point to advertising courses, in that you

are surrounded by like-minded people who can show you the books you need

to learn from. But when someone gets the job, then the process of

training begins. I have eight junior creatives at the moment and I spend

a lot of time teaching them their job. I think the real issue of

recruitment is that there are not enough women in the ad industry. We’ve

got to make it more attractive to women.’

Gerry Moira

Executive creative director, Publicis

We are very lazy about recruitment. Creative people in advertising are

very conservative. We like our traditions. But given the diversity of

media now, we should broaden out. I have hired journalists as

copywriters and designers as art directors. It is possible now to offer

that breadth.

And the titles ’art director’ and ’copywriter’ are redundant. It’s like

saying you’re a haberdasher.

’You’ve got to realise that we are communicators. Award systems are too

geared up to awarding craft skills and that’s why we’re so hung up on

where people come from. But consumers are not interested in craft


I’m wary of saying that I’m sceptical about courses but put it this way:

when I was young and working at O&M, there were all sorts of frauds and

charlatans there - poets and would-be novelists - yet it felt a very

creative and glamorous place at the time. Now we are more professional

and single-minded. The output has quadrupled.

’But I miss the whimsy. I would love to have an abstract theory

department but couldn’t justify it financially. I don’t think

advertising is quite the glamorous magnet it was in the late 70s and

80s. Bright young creatives find music, television, magazines and the

film business much more attractive.’

Patrick Collister

Executive creative director, O&M

The way agencies recruit is sadly at fault. We spend money recruiting

graduates as account men but have given up on the recruitment of young

people into creative departments. We expect art schools to train them

instead - and they don’t. Taking a copy test did sort out people’s

ability to write; it showed the ability to construct intellectually

precise arguments.

It meant you got a broad cross-section of people in the creative


’O&M, historically, attracted different people - taking on a Lord John

Townshend on the one hand and a guy who made fireworks for a living on

the other.

’Now, art schools train people to be concept creators and the literary

skills are lost. That’s a great shame. The real problem is that in the

past, when there were only three or four art schools, students had a

strong sense of vocation. Now the people who are studying advertising

are, if not the educational dregs, then not the people at the top of the

education tree. And they are often taught by people who are advertising


The real training of young creatives these days is through the placement

system. In the end, the cream rises and the people who are the most

talented and committed get jobs. But the pool of talent is narrower.’


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