WPP’s Sorrell, Omnicom’s Wren and Interpublic’s Roth get together to talk about talent – and completely miss the point

Well there they all were at the 4As conference of advertisers and agencies in the US talking about ‘talent’ and why agencies no longer seem to be able to attract the brightest and the best.

But it was all about attracting young people, graduates and the like into their companies.

Obviously the first reason they can’t do this as effectively as they used to be able to do is that they’re not offering as much money as investment banks and the like.

Well maybe that can’t be done but a trainee at one of WPP’s media companies (an example I know about) would be offered less than a probationary policeman or teacher.

Possibly rightly of course (in terms of society’s wider needs) but, given that such people probably have to compete with hundreds of others for the privilege of entering adverts, it’s disingenuous (to put it politely) for bosses to scratch their heads and wonder, what’s the problem?

But a far bigger problem, especially in the UK, is that there’s no career in advertising agencies any more. You’re either a young shaver (who could almost certainly earn more money in the City) or the boss of your company.

If you merely happen to be a good middle-aged account director or creative, forget it. No-one wants to know (as Paul Simons explained here a few days ago).

The stats prove this (most people in UK ad agencies are under 35). If you don’t value people for their skills and experience you won’t create trusted, flexible and capable companies.

WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell knows this, as do Omnicom boss John Wren and Michael Roth of Interpublic.

But their top-down employment policies have created the situation.

So come on chaps, deal with the issue honestly.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.