Less Junior Talent and Higher Pay? Where?

I just came across an interesting article over at Welcome to The Ranch on the talent (or lack there of) at the junior level in advertising. The full article is at the end of this post, but you can read my thoughts on a couple points made in it here.

"...we cannot move ahead without new talent and right now, there is a dearth of it..."

After completing four years of ad classes and getting a B.A. in advertising from a well-known university, along with two prestigious internships, I still found it hard to break past the "no portfolio school?" stigma during my initial job search. It seemed like creative directors were more interested in where you got your skills than how well you could use them. I ended up working outside of the ad industry in a more private art and design environment, and haven't regretted it yet.

I think there is tons of talent out there at the junior level, but agencies are just afraid to give people a shot. With millions of dollars being thrown around behind global brands, I can hardly blame them. But, nobody ever got the big payoff without rolling the dice.

"The shortage of talent has also driven up salaries to record levels."

Anyone who has tried to break into a junior-level ad spot knows they aren't gonna be making much. And with most of the agencies being located in major cities, such as New York, the pay falls even shorter compared to rent and bills you will need to pay in order to work and live in that area. Don't expect a record level salary, expect to use your life savings to secure an apartment with no heat in the winter.

This article almost had me laughing with anger. The whole idea of no talent and higher pay is insane.

All of this, I think, is why my professors back in college really stressed having a passion for advertising if you want to enter the field. Without that passion, you are just gonna fill your days with small paychecks, long hours and a lot of doors slammed in your smiling face.

Art & Commerce: The Education Gap
July 23, 2007
By Bob Greenberg

NEW YORK - Without a doubt, cultivating new talent is the most pressing issue facing our industry. As we all know, we cannot move ahead without new talent and right now, there is a dearth of it-particularly in new media disciplines like interactive.

The problem begins in the universities. We are all struggling to attract the best and brightest to our industry. There was a time when advertising was considered a sexy, desirable profession. In the 1970s and 1980s, top graduates from the best colleges and universities pursued careers in advertising, fueling the industry and creating a body of work that built brands and changed the world. In the mass-media era, the lure of advertising was strong: Agencies were a great place to make one's mark in terms of both money and cultural influence.

The invention of the Web, which ushered in the era of consumer control, changed all that. As consumers gain control of the marketing landscape, advertising has lost its luster-ironic considering there has never been a better time to join the industry. As those who attended Cannes last month can attest, the diversity of work today is breathtaking. We saw campaigns that range from Dove "Evolution" to Tate Tracks to Burger King Games to Nike+. The days when award-show winners were synonymous with television spots and print ads are over. We've come such a long way that there is now recognition for everyone in advertising.

The shortage of talent has also driven up salaries to record levels. It's as if we are living inside another dotcom-style bubble-minus the flocks of people migrating to our industry as they did back then. Without the inflated stock prices of those days, I can't see us going back to recruiting parties, stock options and signing bonuses.

To change perceptions, we must begin inside the university programs from which agencies draw their talent. Whereas Goldman Sachs and McKinsey need target only one kind of student—graduates of the nation's top MBA programs—the advertising industry must draw from sources as diverse as business schools, design schools, and specialized programs like VCU Adcenter and Miami Ad School.

Digital agencies also need to target students in computer science programs as well as programs like MIT's Media Lab and New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).

As agencies and clients, we need to take a proactive role inside all these programs if we're going to capture the hearts and minds of the next generation.

I serve on the boards of four universities: VCU Adcenter, NYU's Tisch School of the Arts (which houses ITP), Parsons School of Design and, most recently, the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. My involvement with these schools has been rewarding personally and professionally. From VCU, we recruit some of our hottest young account planners. NYU's ITP program is the source of dozens of our top interaction designers. Our visual design department is loaded with Parsons grads. And I'm counting on the Berlin School to feed us top creative talent in the future.

By providing us with first-rate recruits, these schools are helping my agency.

Coming full circle, my participation is helping them shape their curriculum to fit the needs of agencies in our new marketing era. The kinds of professionals needed today have changed dramatically in the past 10 years, but in many cases colleges and universities haven't entirely caught up with the new reality. Just as agencies and clients have too many people working in the old marketing model, colleges have professors who use outdated methods to train the next generation of ad-industry pros. Take copywriting, for example. Whereas copywriters in the past focused on the narrative arts associated with television and print, the next generation of copywriters needs to tackle a more diverse mix of assignments, from response-generating copy in banner ads to viral videos, Web sites and mobile campaigns. In this one area alone, there aren't enough professors with diverse backgrounds, and the problem is replicated across disciplines like planning, design, data intelligence, media and all the departments that make up the modern agency.

As much as these schools need members to serve on their boards, they also need money to help attract faculty and students, and to upgrade their curricula to serve the needs of today's agencies and clients. That's why it is so important that the industry contribute its share, as IPG recently did with a gift of $1 million to the VCU Adcenter. Putting money where my mouth is, R/GA has donated pro bono services to schools including NYU, Rhode Island School of Design and Parsons (and VCU, which is in development as I write this) to help them develop world-class Web sites—one of the most important pieces in the recruiting puzzle.

Like schools, various industry associations play a critical role in ensuring that there is a new generation of advertising talent. All agencies and clients should support the Advertising Educational Foundation and, in particular, its online curriculum project, an excellent source of content for professors and students wanting to learn about our industry.

We should all get involved in the education scene, as a matter of both self-preservation and self-satisfaction. I can't think of a better way to give and receive at the same time.

Bob Greenberg is CEO of R/GA in New York and a regular 'Adweek' columnist.


  1. i agree so much with your points, especially seeing those questions asked, like "where'd they go to school" before creative directors or recruiters even crack open a portfolio they're given.

    or when the interviewed is asked "so who do you know that works here?" as they sit down during their initial 30 seconds of being interviewed.

    i could say more, but i think my venting would turn into rambling that'd be hard to stop...

    in short. i agree with your points shedwa.

  2. And I agree with yours. Thanks!

  3. wow shawn, great find on the article. It's really interesting and I agree 100% with your comments. I just took an internship at a great agency in NY, one possibly mightier than a previous NYC internship, and the first question out of every art director's lips was, oh are you at ad school?

    It seems to me that agencies are incredibly cheap. Yes, they're pushing around millions of their clients' dollars everyday. They're also making millions of their clients' dollars everyday. They operate so lean it's amazing anyone gets in.

    It's ironic that agencies complain every day about their clients not taking risks, but none of them have the balls to do so.

  4. That's a great point about the clients not taking risks as well.

    Maybe this is one reason smaller agencies are increasingly creating more interesting work. Maybe they are more willing to take risks because they have less to lose.