Global viewpoint from Tel Aviv
A view from Jaime Mandelbaum

Global viewpoint from Tel Aviv

It's apparent that the talent drain is a global problem.

Whether it’s Facebook, Google or Twitter hiring senior executives from ad agencies or funky start-ups becoming the first port of call for young geniuses, ad agencies have dropped lower down the list of desirable places to work. But nowhere has the talent drain from our industry been more pronounced than in Israel.

It’s not that start-ups are actively poaching every single agency person, but Israel is a tiny nation that has more start-ups than all of Europe put together. Israel shows us that, with the sheer number of new people entering our business dwindling, the case for reinventing the agency model couldn’t be stronger.

The problem could be serious. Israel is a smaller, faster microcosm of the wider world and the whole Israeli ad market combined is estimated to be worth about $1 billion, which is the size of a medium high-tech company.

Here are some startling facts. 

With more than 3,000 high-tech companies and start-ups, Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech companies in the world outside Silicon Valley.

Israel is ranked number two in the world for venture-capital funds, right behind the US. And outside the US and Canada, Israel has the largest number of Nasdaq-listed companies.

So, in the worst-case scenario, young talent coming to agencies in Israel will be the leftovers. In the long term, that would affect the work produced for our clients, the agency remuneration model and even the fundamental role of the agency in creating solutions that sell and solve our clients’ problems.

It’s easy to see why the plethora of tech businesses and start-ups in Tel Aviv are so alluring. They offer potential riches unmatched by the ad industry.

But that’s not to say our industry is doomed. Being an optimist, I think it is about to reinvent itself – you can begin to see some evidence in Tel Aviv. Being a pragmatist, I understand that, if we aren’t part of the solution, we are part of the problem.

Agencies around the world are trying out initiatives to make themselves more attractive employers. From offering Google-style "20 per cent" time – where staff members are allowed one day a week to experiment with new ideas – to encouraging greater entrepreneurialism, agencies are looking for ways to bring in new types of people. As the outlets for advertising change and more media goes digital, agencies are trying to appeal to creative technologists – those whose skills straddle both fields. But is it enough simply to imitate the tech industry?

Dave Trott says we were once an industry of rebels and rejects, and he’s right. Only when advertising reclaims its position as the home of radical and rebellious thinking will it succeed in reversing the talent drain that is so apparent in Tel Aviv.

Jaime Mandelbaum is the chief creative officer, Europe, at Y&R