Thursday, 6 November 2008

We Will Not Be Silent

Build from the bottom. Via Paul Goyette

I was having a look at the Facebook groups and came across a thread about how a London agency was handling graduate recruitment this year. I wasn't impressed so I blogged about it on my blog. But I think it's important more people read it, so here we go.

We started this journey just under 15 months ago, the whole point of it was to be a place where people could find out about a career in the communications industry - because as fate would have it a significant number of advertising agencies are ridiculously poor at setting their stalls out to potential new hires. They then aim to charge large multi-disciplinary corporations with the mantra that 'we know all about communication'. Ironic methinks.

A year on, we are fortunate enough to still be considered relevant; because of the fact that you guys take the time to read and interact with us - which is awesome, because of the generosity of some of those already in the industry, but also possibly because a vacuum exists that few have attempted to fill. As a result, the IPA have been touch a few times, some agencies have labelled it as recommended reading, others have elevated it to essential - which is nice.

You see hits and links and free lunches are great, but they're not the point.

The point was, and still is that advertising agencies are in the proverbial bucket of crap when it comes to the hiring and retention of the best that society has to offer. The reasons are too numerous for me to dive deeply into for this post, but essentially ad agencies have been dipping into the same bucket for too long, ignoring some kung-fu crazy people, and losing many other potential grads by simply not getting the word out about what an amazing career working in comms can be. People then go into finance and consulting and are miserable. I'm generalising of course. But it does happen. A lot.

This was an attempt to increase awareness about advertising as a career, and hopefully begin to be part of a change in the way advertising agencies recruit and retain junior staff. By and large we'd like to think that it has been a positive influence, agency websites are much more forthcoming about what advertising is as a career and the IPA are really pushing to improve this facet of the industry.

AdGrads is now a funky little community on the web, be it on Twitter, Facebook or the blog itself. So as in any community, people talk to each other about what's going on. And because of this, when an organisation is unhelpful, rude or plain ignorant to a member of the community, word gets around.

Many London ad agencies are recruiting at this moment so there are countless of y'all who are examining applications and websites and hoping to stand out; just as I was not so long ago. Many of you are studying as well as trying to complete obtuse application forms. I'm sure some of y'all have part-time jobs on top of this. It is only your enthusiasm and passion that is driving you. Of course it's a requirement to have these qualities for the world of work, but that doesn't mean that they should be ignored.

So imagine a London agency that claims its goal is to use creativity to solve business problems.

Now picture said agency running a grad scheme this year. Let's say they have a fancy flash website. Where do you think they should put information about the graduate scheme on it? Perhaps in a 'careers' or 'join us' or 'contact us' section? No no, they're far too cool for such silly things. Let's imagine they devote a tiny little link right next to the hugely popular 'T&Cs' link right at the bottom of the page to the future employees of their company. And let's imagine they use the grand font size of oh say 6 for this link.

Now perhaps this would link to a section with a little bit about the agency, what they believe in, why grads should apply, what kind of training they should expect, maybe what they'll earn and other things like further reading that could be done, who to contanct with questions - that kind of thing. That would be useful, wouldn't it? But again no, our agency is perhaps far to busy or lazy to do anything of the sort (and let's remember that agencies such as BBH and Ogilvy HAVE gone to the trouble of doing all of this, and will probably get a higher number of quality applicants as a result). Let's say they just whack up a Word document of the application form. And nothing else.

But you see, advertising applicants - or AdGrads if you will, aren't put off so easily. We know this. So let's have one of them call up our agency to ask them for some further information about the scheme. Wouldn't it be bad if our agency was unable to tell an applicant the nature of the job it's offering? First telling them to look at the form, then claiming to not know what the form actually says, and finally resorting to telling the potential applicant to essentially 'apply and you'll find out everything if you get the job'. Doesn't sound like a very wise and informed bunch of people does it? Maybe not the kind of effort you'd want out of a company where you'd be expected to put your heart and soul into, to do all the little things that senior people may not want to do, but still need to be done.

And perhaps this wouldn't seem like the kind of company that uses creativity to solve business problems. Because it seems to me that this kind of attitude is exactly the kind of business problem that might need some creativity to get solved. Or barring that, maybe just some common sense.

Let's call this agency BMB.

If I could, I would tell the inevitably hard working men and women involved in this state of affairs that the funny thing about living in the age we do is that this kind of behavior, be it with your clients, your employees or your future employees spreads quite quickly. And the little student who you show disdain for may know some more students. And these students may know some people who used to be students, but now write a blog about getting into advertising. And maybe the guy who writes a blog about getting into advertising thinks that maybe this year, you don't deserve to get the best people, because as his dad often tells him "You get what you put in". And it doesn't seem like you're putting that much in this year.

"Power to the people, right on"
John Lennon

This is our 100th post. Quite fitting given the subject I think. Thanks for sticking with us.


Kate said...

Too right. I couldn't be arsed with BMB. Applications take too much time already- there's no way I was going to spend hours on an application for a grad scheme I know nothing about.

Anonymous said...

What a joke - although I imagine a whole bunch of people will still apply.

I'm not bothering with any sort of 'grad scheme' - I shall find my own job!

Anonymous said...

I missed the deadline on BMB, admittedly by mistake, but when I gave it all another look I wasn't exactly heartbroken. They're pretty reticent for a communications agency.

Cynicism aside, good luck with your search rob - I tried finding work outside the schemes in July/Aug with mixed success.

(In London at least, it seems there's always someone with 2 years' experience to beat you to it - how anyone breaks in I'll never know.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam,

I came across your blog ‘we will not be silent’ with interest and not a little disappointment. You see, I run the grad scheme here at BMB and I wanted to take the time to respond to you and the members of AdGrads.

First up, you’re right about the website. We’d just re-designed it and yes, the link could’ve been bigger. That’s a fair cop. We’re going to make our recruitment section for grads (and all other positions) much more prominent and with testimonials from the guys who work here.

Secondly, in the (just over) three year’s that we’ve been going all our previous applications have come via individual university career’s websites, facebook and myspace on which there’s lots of info about us, who we’re looking for, what we’re like etc… This year, we had treble the number of applications and some – like the guys on AdGrads – came directly via our website. Again, we know this now and next year, we’ll have the same information that we supply to universities on our website. And much more.

However, it’s simply not true that we’re ‘too cool’ or just ‘lazy’ to be bothered about our potential new BMBer’s. Firstly, we’re not cool at all. We’re a scruffy bunch of ad geeks. But, more importantly, we really care about all our applicants. We know how tough it can be to break into the industry – I didn’t make it through the traditional grad route myself either – and we offer advice and guidance to anyone who needs it. Over the last three years, we’ve helped over half of our final round applicants who didn’t make it into our scheme to find jobs at other agencies, staying in touch and offering advice, guidance, references and even coaching them on interview techniques. And the grads that did make it? Well, they’re doing rather brilliantly and if you ring up (020 7632 0400) and ask for either Stuart, Katie, Burds, Max, Kav or Wrighty, they’ll happily tell you (warts and all) themselves.

It was a shame to read the cynicism of your blog and the responses to it. So, yes, our link could’ve been bigger. And, yes, we could have put more info on it. But to break into this industry you need guts, bags of enthusiasm and the desire to succeed. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have ‘bothered’ applying just because the link was a bit difficult to find. Come on guys! We’ve listened to you and we’ll do better next year but advertising is a bloody great industry to work in and BMB is a rather super, growing agency to work for – so don’t give up so easily and if you have any other gripes or suggestions, just give me a call and we’ll take it from there.


Anonymous said...

Cheers for the Ogilvy props - we've had some brilliant applicants this year. Seems the hard work has indeed paid off.

Interviews start next week. Can't wait.

Will said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will said...


Nice to hear from you - thanks for taking the time to respond to us.

I think a lesson to be learned from all of this, as you identify, is to have all affairs online sorted before opening the doors to grads and the wider world - as being a bit mysterious online isn't always that helpful to those who genuinely want to find out more online/don't know anything about advertising as a profession. That would seem to be the first hurdle - I would have thought it'd be hard to have the guts and determination to succeed if you don't know much about the role in question and how one agency differs from another.

I was interested to watch this years proceedings, as I did apply for the first year you guys had a grad scheme running. Funnily enough, I'm actually fairly sure you interviewed me, and I did find your comments after the interview fair and spot on - particularly some of the reading matter you recommended. So whoever reads this, I'm sure Clare is as good as her word, and do ring/email to find out more.

(I didn't get in via a grad scheme either that year, as it happened).

As it pertains to us: We're more than happy to chat over the phone or chat face to face - thanks for the invitation.

Simply put, the point of this blog is to make things a little better for potential grads, so thanks again for taking the time to respond personally; i'm sure you will be taken up on that phone call by some potential grads - it's too easy for some agencies to just assume grads will come to them, and to be silent when they send rejection letters, or worse, faceless emails.



Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

I did both a first and second round interview at BMB, and of the final 8 of us, four already worked there. That made you feel out of the loop from the very start.

big suit said...

clear writing skills,