While two dozen corner office dwellers here in Madison Avenue
obsess about who’s buying whom and whether they’ll have a seat, let
alone a present, when the music stops, the rest of the New York
advertising community gets on with the daily grind. The chief difference
is that their new clients have the word ’.com’ at the end of their names
and, as a result, lunch with existing clients has taken on a
significance beyond catching up on respective golf handicaps.
Suddenly 30-year-olds are running companies within advertising groups
and there’s no longer the sense of serving time waiting for your
rightful opportunity to take a turn at the tiller of the vast,
cumbersome ships that are the giant New York agencies. It’s put even
more stress on the second big issue taxing the minds of Madison Avenue
big cheeses: the talent shortage.
New York agencies are facing an acute dearth of talent. They are already
stricken by the post-recession drain to Wall Street and consultancies
when Ivy League graduates weighed up dollars 30,000 Madison Avenue
starting salaries against dollars 80,000 Wall Street and McKinsey offers
and voted with their wallets.
But now, as you might expect, their problems with staff going e-WOL are
considerably worse than in Britain, if only because the opportunities
presented by the world of e-everything are taken so much more for
granted in the land of e-ubiquity.
So, how to keep young talent and employ them gainfully in
One solution is to separate out such companies and promise them a huge
share of the action and a subsequent IPO. However, this creates a ’some
animals are more equal than others’ division within the same group.
Perhaps you have already experienced the resentment that can arise if
you are working as a wage slave (perhaps even a very well-paid wage
slave) on the good old-fashioned business that brings in 90 per cent of
current income, and then a twentysomething oik tips up talking sticky,
smug in the knowledge that paydirt is around the corner.
What to do? If you are a wage slave, you either put up and get on board
the e-train, or shut up, and accept the relatively slower route to a
white picket-fence life that is mainstream advertising. If you are a big
cheese you need to become a consummate juggler of egos and wage bills.
It was ever thus. The difference today being (if you view salary as an
individual’s p/e ratio) that the big cheeses must worry how long the ’p’
can keep soaring without any ’e’. Not the 20-year-old’s problem. That’s
why Madison Avenue big cheeses are paid their king’s ransoms.
It’s always been the case that you needn’t be a wage slave and you could
set up your own business. The difference today is that you no longer
need a track record. The corporate ladder has been kicked away. Why wait
your turn indeed?