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Common Ground for Advertisers & Ad Agencies: Talent-Centric Culture

Marketing-oriented companies and advertising agencies today seek smart and resourceful people to impact business outcomes. Finding, engaging and keeping best of class talent that aligns with capability need, culture and core values is a strategic imperative. People costs are more often than not, the lion’s share of the expense. The sources of talent, be it individuals, teams, agencies, or alliances partners are varied and complex. Effective teaming is the new organizational currency.

In our agency search consultant capacity, we observe Marketers and Ad agencies share common ground when they build contemporary, talent–rich cultures in these four ways:

1) Ladder Up

Marketing and advertising agency leaders that articulate a higher sense of purpose for every work effort will create employee and service provider engagement that makes a difference. Fully committed people think differently and apply themselves more fully to something they perceive to be significant and important to others. Setting the stage with the “WHY” infuses a higher sense of purpose into work; it elevates thinking, unleashes creativity and generates fresh connections. Top level leadership communication should provide holistic perspective and strategic context but will stick when it includes an aspirational appeal. Managerial level communication delivered in meetings, project briefings, scope of work documents and casual conversation can impart richer meaning as well.

2) Love Languages

Talent–centric cultures recognize the love languages that resonate internally within their companies and those that work best with and within agency partners. It goes without saying that financial equity underpins all successful business relationships. Other examples include quality time, allocated for innovation or service work, continuous learning and team building; Words of affirmation, appreciation and constructive feedback for professional efforts motivate people who privately view their work contribution as an extension of themselves, their gifts and abilities. Often the simplicity of a well placed thank you is enough. From handshakes to hugs, business referrals, social media endorsements, play time, down time and unexpected surprises, thoughtfulness and action applied to professional relationships will motivate talent, engender loyalty and amp the energy in the organizational culture. Finding the appropriate love language is also the ticket to getting millennial talent to stay longer than a year of two; and it inspires external partners to wow their clients more consistently.

3) Embrace a Scope-Driven World

Integrated resources, employee turnover, and steady merger and acquisition activity create a fluid marketing work world; talent–centric cultures recognize this current of change and off set the ambiguity with clarity where possible. Clearly defined plans and delineated scope of work tends to focus employee responsibilities and activity on actual outcomes; clearly defined scope also activates teams against specific goals, reducing anxiety from interpretative guess work. Well defined processes can frame the collective team effort, effectively integrate client teams with agency partners, and still allow some measure of freedom as to how people move through milestones. Mobile technology and quality analytics empower people further to apply their best effort.

The trend towards scope-driven agency sourcing allows clients to engage multiple types of agencies for different outcomes. Clarity in sourcing effectively allows talented people to experience working together with better defined outcomes and mutual success. The scope orientation serves an antidote to ambiguity, apathy and sometimes a sense of chaos; on both sides, it shapes priorities, places value on talent, and sets the credibility stage for expanded relationship and future engagements.

4) Open Doors, Open Minds

The inherent diversity one finds inside advertising agency, media and ad tech firms extends beyond ethnicity and worldview to divergent ways of thinking, creativity, doing and being. What is relevant to note is that clients hire agencies for this reason, to access diverse talent and skills that they do not have. They place high value the agencies’ outward facing view and insights of the consumer and marketplace; they value the diversity of parallel business experiences and the insights and connections agencies can make; they seek the steady stream of ideas for competitive advantage; they appreciate the by-product of multi-faceted agency partners with creative cultures is the innate ability to translate their fact-based business strategies into powerful and moving brand expression that engages in fruitful and even magical ways.

Creativity applied to business challenges regardless of where it comes from is born from a culture that values its talent and nurtures it accordingly. Strategies for clients and agencies to nurture talent include intentional career pathing, managerial coaching, rotational assignments and continuous learning and development. Stagnation is an enemy in a knowledge-based economy. While companies seek stability in their contractual relationships, they value the open and expansive perspective creative talent can infuse into their own organizations and the status quo. Not to be misinterpreted as a soft skill, clients also value talent that delivers executional excellence and agility, born of expertise and experience, as repeated practices are refined to become best practices.

Despite fundamentally different business models, companies and advertising /media agencies can nurture talent-centric cultures, knit together diverse teams of people and realize unprecedented success.

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