Throughout the 4As Conference, industry leaders -- mostly “old white men,” as MediaVest executive vice president Steven Wolfe Pereira put it -- held sway during discussion sessions, dispensing opinions and advice on various topics.
But the final session on the last day of the conference on Wednesday was devoted to a group of the industry’s “rising stars.” They called for change. And they believe their elders should listen more attentively when they present new ideas and let them act on those ideas. Nancy Hill, president of the 4As, vowed that rising stars would lead off next year’s conference, given the industry’s professed desire to do a better job of attracting and retaining new talent.
“We haven’t seen a lot of transformation,” asserted Pereira, pointedly referring to the formal name of the 4As’ conference and who moderated the rising stars session. He wondered aloud why agencies aren’t more aggressively mining for talent the legions of willing and able millennials who are passionate about the business and eager to make contributions.
Rising star Jennifer Hoffman, senior associate, digital, MEC, asserted that “at our level” the agency business is a “revolving door.” Part of the problem, she said, is that “all of the agencies are the same in terms of what they are doing.”
The problem is compounded by the fact that leadership tends to ignore innovations suggested by up-and-coming managers, Hoffman said. “Clients want new thinking and ways of doing things,” she said. “We all want to try different things,” she added of her peers. “Let us try it.”
Others on the panel said agencies need to focus more on client business growth. “We can’t lose sight of what keeps CEOs up at night,” said Lauren Johnson, connections associate director, MediaVest.
John Koenigsberg, media supervisor, Razorfish, said that agencies need to “reframe the value proposition,” to draw talent that is focused on both entrepreneurship and collaboration. It’s that combination, he said, that will yield “something that is bigger than the sum of its parts.”