Advertising! The glamorous life! Jetting to exotic locales to shoot amazing spectacles of creativity, then drinking the night away with clients in the most expensive, impressive spot in the vicinity.
Or you can own a percentage of the start-up, work insane hours and walk away a multi-millionaire.
The allure of advertising excess used to be pretty much all we needed to do to attract hot, young talent. That way-cool video game console in the corner with a faint layer of dust and the kickin' foosball table in the break room would set the tone. Then there would be the stories of flying to the Andes mountains to simulate the Russian winter in the middle of August — or the interior shoot that had to be done in South Africa. Then there would be tales of the drinking, the food, the practical jokes and more. And after all this, all we had to do was look that young talent in the eye and say, "What do we need to do to get you sign up?"
We never used require actual coolness when recruiting. All we needed was the window dressing of cool. We needed to make them think they would be living the glamorous advertising lifestyle and we had them. But now we are competing against genuine cool. Because the dream of being a billionaire by your 30s is a whole hell of a lot cooler than a little-used dart board.
This story in Adweek about these recruting problem inspired Peter Shankman and I to discuss the topic of attracting bright, young talent to our agencies during the 2 Minute Rundown for Thursday this week. And as Peter points out in the segment, start-ups have many of the trappings of agency cool (aka, the breakfast bar and the beer truck), but also offer the carrot of ownership. So when you compare career paths, why would you choose the ultimately thankless world of advertising that values the young, but offers very few any hope for the future, when you could take a risk and maybe walk away rich?
Skin in the game is a huge motivator, after all.
What's more, if you have no mortgage nor dependents why not take the risk and think bigger than the message? You've got nothing to lose when you're young. You might as well aim higher if you have the talent.
This issue is only going to get worse for the agencies until we start moving away from our big company mentality in favor or scrappier pod-based models of business. We need to embrace structures that value innovation and reward entrepreneurial thinking again. Or else we will always be struggling to fill these developer and technology positions.
If any of the big agencies leaders are reading this, you may want to take a look at what Joe Jaffe is doing with Evol8tion as a good example of adopting a venture capital approach for symbiotic investment and growth. Because until we invest in the talent, they have little to no incentive to even consider advertising as a career option.