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March 29, 2012
Do You Deserve 'A' Level Talent?
 
Every now and then, I get curious and check out the employment ads for creatives. You know, the job listings online and in the trade publications. And very quickly I’m reminded why I started my own shop. Folks have lost their “ever-loving minds!”
 
I get that the economy is still not where any of us want it to be, but there’s no excuse for what agencies are posting. I cannot believe people can even move their mouths to speak this madness. I keep seeing terms like: “‘A’ level talent” or “award winning work” or “cutting-edge creative.”
 
“You don’t deserve ‘A’ level talent,” I think to myself as I read the ads or look at the agency’s website. “Heck, you wouldn’t even know what to do with that level of talent if it walked through the door.”
 
You don’t deserve great talent. Not yet. Many in advertising management have not been trained to manage great talent.
 
There’s a responsibility that comes with having “A” level talent. They come with huge and strong egos. These folks know they’re very good — they didn’t get this way by accident. These professionals are bringing their skills and talents to your shop with an expectation of more than a salary and benefits. They’re expecting an opportunity to perform at the level that you promised in your ads. They believe that your agency is going to provide the environment and support that will help them to do the type of work you claimed your agency was looking for, the type of work that this level of professional does. And guess what happens when next?
 
They either become disgruntled and the whole working relationship deteriorates, or they start on their exit strategy, or they simply stop caring and start phoning it in. None of which is a benefit to your agency or clients.
 
This economy has seen some really good talent looking for work, and some agencies have seen this as an opportunity to reach for the stars. And in theory, there is nothing wrong with that, but what happens when you do hire this really good professional? These are not order-takers; they’re used to contributing, speaking up, and pushing back. If you are not prepared, you might mistake this for egos out of control, but it’s really part of the process of creating the work you are after. The creative process is not always a giant “love fest.” Sometimes, when strong ideas collide conflict occurs, you can’t take it personally.
 
Every agency owner or member of management dreams of being “that hot shop” who does the work that everyone else envies, admires, or even hates. But simply hiring great talent is not the answer. Becoming “that shop” requires a herculean effort by management to not only bring all the pieces to together, but to hold them in place and keeping them working.
 
Ask yourself:
  • Have you created an environment that fosters doing great creative — removed all the barriers to doing such work?
  • Have you worked hard to educate your clients to the power and effectiveness of doing great creative, and what the process is going to be like?
  • Have you invested in training your management team to understand what it takes to create great advertising? 
  • Have you made doing great creative part of your brand, part of your agency’s DNA?
  • Do you have clients who demand the best possible work every time, all the time?
  • Does your current body of work reflect a commitment to producing great work?
None of this “we’re working on it.” Either you are doing it or you aren’t. And if you aren’t, then why do you deserve “A” level talent? What are they going to do once they come to work for you? If you are not prepared, you are only setting yourself and your agency up for some potential rough waters.
 
I know, I really do, that the idea of having great talent working for you is such an attractive thought, but if you are not prepared for it, then in the words of Mr. Spock from Star Trek: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting.”
 
You do not deserve “A” level talent. Not yet.

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Derek Walker is the janitor, secretary and mailroom person for his tiny agency, brown and browner advertising, out of the big city of Columbia, S.C. He is on Twitter as @dereklwalker
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