All of us who work in marketing communications are acutely aware of how the proliferation of digital media has transformed our industry. From the content we create to the technology we use to the media we buy, the agency world has undergone a seismic shift over the past decade.
But one thing remains the same: An agency is still only as good as its creative talent. To thrive in the current economic and technological environment, however, successful firms are rethinking their approach to staffing—not just by changing the way they fill positions, but by reimagining those positions altogether.
At Quantasy, we’ve made a number of non-conventional staffing moves, from hiring a veteran music company executive and a web entrepreneur, to bringing in a screenwriter and a blogger to help with recent projects. Collaborating with these professionals—none of whom had previous ad agency experience—has helped us develop richer, more engaging consumer experiences while reducing staffing costs and streamlining our internal creative processes.
For us, looking beyond the usual talent pool in creating our agency staff has been an exhilarating and rewarding journey. I’d like to share with you five key lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Cast a wide net. The worlds of advertising, entertainment, technology and culture are rapidly converging, so there’s a compelling reason to consider hiring successful professionals from these other disciplines. For example, we just brought on a seasoned, Grammy-winning record executive as our Chief Growth Officer. Although he had never worked at an agency before, his impressive resume includes overseeing urban music for J Records and Interscope Records and serving as general manager of Bad Boy Entertainment. Music and entertainment play an integral role in the way brands interact with consumers today, and he brings an insight into popular culture and creativity that you can’t get in advertising school.
Focus on the End Result. One thing we’ve found essential when hiring is to match the talent to the end product. For instance, everybody’s talking about storytelling these days. But at a lot of shops you won’t find anyone who has ever actually written a story. One of our writers is a screenwriter who didn’t know much about advertising fundamentals. Because she works mostly on long-form web series and branded content for us, her entertainment experience is a huge plus. One example: before she even writes the first line of the script, she creates a whole background for the characters, which gives a new level of authenticity and depth to the stories.
Harness the Power of Entrepreneurism. We have found that people who come from an entrepreneurial background bring tremendous energy and determination, as well as the ability to get things done. They also have great new ideas, and take responsibility for executing them. They’ll stay up late and work weekends, not because they have to but because they want to finish what they’ve started. But people with that drive and willingness to take risks are not usually interested in a static role at a company. We understand that, so we offer them the flexibility to pursue their ideas, even ones that have nothing to do with our clients’ business—or our business.
Hybrids are more efficient. Digital technology has made it easier for people to develop proficiency in a number of disciplines. Having staff members with diverse skill sets can be extremely beneficial, especially in a smaller shop. For instance, we have a content planner who is a technology enthusiast by nature. He can work with clients to get an understanding of their needs and objectives, and then interpret that for tech folks and collaborate with them on developing functionality for apps.
It’s all about the data. We have found it is increasingly essential to have people skilled at analyzing data on our team. Advertising and branded entertainment are creative endeavors, but the objective is always to serve our clients’ business needs. There is a now a wealth of data available, especially with online media, not only about the number of viewers, but who they are and how they are behaving: how long they watch, whether they share content, etc. Studying this data often reveals surprises and allows us to create more targeted content and plan our media buys better. The people we’ve hired are not just traditional market researchers but computer scientists and former SEO experts, who bring different perspectives and skills to the role of media planning and buying.
The field of marketing communications today is wide open. I believe our approach to hiring should be too.