The link between John Ward, the former Bates UK vice-chairman,
setting himself up as a ’have brief, will travel’ planning consultant
and the industry’s collective failure to attract the brightest recruits
in sufficient numbers may not be readily obvious.
None-the-less, it is very real. The climate which enables highly
experienced planners like Ward to make a good living by going it alone
has been created by the damaging block on recruitment by the industry
during the recession-ravaged early 90s.
Today, planning talent is at such a premium that many shops will hire
good people as soon as they become available, irrespective of whether
they have a job for them.
The shortages are the price the industry must pay for its declining
share of the quality brain market. Where advertising was once the magnet
for graduates wanting to stretch their intellects and have fun, other
industries now look equally sexy.
And it’s not only the dotcoms. Management consultancies and even
financial services now vie for the people who might once have opted for
Nor, with their margins under increasing pressure, can agencies any
longer match the graduate pay scales offered elsewhere.
The answers to the problem will, inevitably, sound like platitudes.
Arcane systems within agencies have to be overhauled to free enough
money to attract the brightest and the best. And if the industry does
not heed the lessons of its history of failure to sustain its supply of
fresh blood in tough times, it is doomed to repeat them.
Meanwhile, agencies are having to muddle through as best they can,
spreading their planning talent thinly across accounts and putting an
inevitable strain on client relationships. The agency chairman who
admits that his ideal system of allocating three brands per planner has
long been abandoned is certainly not alone.
For Ward, and those like him, there’s serious money to be made. From the
time when freelance planners were little more than qualitative
researchers, they now find themselves replacing hard-pressed staff
planners at the heart of new-business pitches.
Good for them. Bad for the advertising industry.