Peruse most resumes of Millennials—the generation that is considered the key to the future of the ad industry—and you’ll see a common pattern: Time at each job is short, with not much more than one year at any given shop.
These resumes are the proof of a trend that’s been happening for quite a while. Job-hopping among Millennials in order to quickly escalate promotions, pay raises (but of course), and opportunity to work on a variety of big-name accounts has become the norm in our industry. And that’s a big problem for ad agencies and brands. But the truth is, it’s hardly the fault of Millennials. It’s our fault. Those of us who run agencies have created the dynamic that has fostered this mentality.
The ad industry is plagued by a damaging outlook on talent. Far too many agencies value breadth of experience over depth of knowledge. Millennials are talented and full of ideas, to be sure. But one thing else is pretty clear: They are always on the lookout for their next job. Long gone are the days when people settled in at one agency for years and years, á la Don Draper of Sterling Cooper Draper and Price—or, to use a real example, Edward Boches at Mullen, who spent more than 30 years honing his creative chops at the Boston-based agency.
The best agency people know their clients’ markets, business models, and categories extremely well. At the same time—and even more importantly—they know the discipline of advertising inside and out, which is how they deliver value.
These days, however, it’s common for a 20-something (who has already held four agency jobs) to be managing a team of younger people. This does nothing to instill brands with a feeling that their ad agency partner is a trusted adviser. And if agencies don’t add value, they’re just an extension of a brand’s workforce and thus much easier to cut. The best agencies make themselves indispensable, but they can only do that when the talent is not interchangeable. Agencies must be seen as adding value.
To instill the idea that longevity at an agency will actually help young people succeed in advertising, rather than hold them back, advertising agencies need to change the way they recruit, foster, and mold young talent. They need to instill the feeling that forming a deep bench of experience at one agency will be better for career development in the long run. Agencies can attack this problem in three different ways.
The Agency Mindset Needs To Change
Change always starts from the top. After all, this a mindset that’s being perpetuated by leaders at agencies first and foremost.
Leaders at ad agencies need to communicate to their clients that they are much more than just extensions of their own departments. Once we act like the experts that we are, it will become apparent that we are adding value and not just manpower.
This type of thinking will trickle down to the younger talent, who will be compelled to see that it’s necessary to become experts themselves at a young age, rather than simply adding another notch to their resumes.
Competitive Salaries And Mindful Promotions
Part of the reason Millennials are so eager to change jobs is that they are perpetually hungry for that next paycheck upgrade. Who isn’t?
One way to combat this is by offering competitive raises, which help ensure that your staff is far less motivated to use a job-hop as an excuse to simply get a raise.
There needs to be a sea change in terms of how we hire and how we promote from within. While we have to be careful about promoting too quickly, we have to balance growing deep knowledge benches from within with bringing in experts from outside when needed.
Cast A Wide Net For Talent
Advertising agencies can ensure that they’ll have a deep and varied bench of talent by considering people from a variety of different backgrounds and industries. This applies especially to the young generation.
There’s no reason why all resumes have to be cookie cutter. Both art and science meet at any agency, and varied backgrounds and experiences will help all agencies grow and remain valuable to their clients.
Millennials are the future of this industry. They are eager, bright lights. But if we don’t change the industry’s thinking about how we groom talent and how brands view us, we risk the further commoditization of the advertising industry.
For those of us who have been in the industry for many years, we need to emphasize to the younger set that our experience and expertise is what sets us apart. Deep knowledge and relationships are like gold in this business, and leap-frogging from job to job is really not the best way to help them grow.