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June 28, 2006
Weekdays at Bernies

I certainly don’t need to stress the importance of talent to the readers of Talent Zoo.

No doubt you already know all the statistics about the dearth of talent in the ad business in general.

Most definitely you’re aware of the 2004 Gallup Poll (gee, I can’t wait for the 2005 numbers) which puts advertising practitioners second from bottom in the honesty and ethical standards stakes ahead of only used car salesman, and behind politicians and lawyers,

Staffing an account these days is tantamount to performing a death-defying illusion that would make David Blaine turn green (or greener than he did when he recently tried – and failed - holding his breath under water for a record-breaking amount of time) I often caution my marketer clients to scrutinize their agency’s staffing plan proposals to isolate any mentions of the initials DB. DB as in Dead Bodies. Hence the title of this article, Weekdays at Bernies.

Seems we’re living through a vicious circle, which is spirally downwards at an increasing and alarming rate. Fresh out of college kids are not exactly lining up outside our offices for a long shot opportunity at being overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. Bizarre I know, because most of us have been more than content to work under these conditions for the majority of our unnatural professional careers.

And then there’s my little neck of the woods: new marketing.

[begin ad insertion]

I specialize in new marketing for a new consumer: put differently, the consumers have changed, why the hell then hasn’t marketing? New Marketing refers to a bold mix of alternative approaches to traditional marketing and advertising – from interactive or digital to gaming; from experiential marketing to consumer generated content; from social media to mobile. I wrote about these approaches and then some in my book, Life after the 30-second spot.

[end ad insertion]

I am amazed, dismayed, appalled, flabbergasted, repulsed and offended (but not necessarily in that order) by the lack of understanding, skill, interest and commitment given to the change management side of communication – blogs, podcasts, vlogs, wikis, virtual worlds like Second Life, open source marketing, transparency, social networking and the like.

Marketers are demanding change right now. They’re begging for new thinking, new ideas, new attempts at achieving old objectives (sales, ROI) What are we bringing them in return? 1-second radio ads, 30-second spots online, hologram overlays in magazines. Where’s the innovation? Where’s the experimentation? Where’s the lateral thinking? Where’s the creativity?

Corporate culture (an oxymoron I know) has a vital role to play in this regard. My belief is that a company’s ability to project an open environment, i.e. one that embraces an organic, revitalized and dynamic way of working is key in terms of attracting and retaining the kind of talent necessary and needed to provide the kind of impetus and contributions that separate the wheat from the chaff.

Companies today are lost at sea, having surrendered all common sense and leadership to a combination of legal eagles (propensity to take risks, let go of control and cede ownership to consumers), bean counters (holding company dominance, slave to quarterly earnings) and IT geeks (firewalls, inability to access blogs, upload or download content). The result is a tidal wave of immense proportions and the consequences may very well be irreversible and dire.

My advice to “talent” out there (I may as well have referred to you as raw meat, but at least I didn’t use a number) is very simple: research the companies wooing you in advance and dig around a bit to ascertain whether that smell is the foul stink of greed and two-faced hypocrisy or in fact, if there is a deep-seated commitment to helping employees, team members actualize themselves and make a difference.

We really are going (or undergoing) through interesting times, where making a difference is paramount; where making the world a better place is not a pipe-dream anymore. Ordinary individuals are realizing extraordinary aspirations through tools and technology, but moreover through the power of connecting and conversing with one another.

Companies need to take note and notice of these landmark shifts and be counted. Part one is to acknowledge these changes, part two is to do something about them and part three is to make sure that these actions are not just reserved for the “outside world”

You deserve to work with these kinds of companies, and not the ones where the stench you smell is the rotting carcasses of hundreds of Bernie-clones. Perhaps even yours.

After all, the company that keeps you should be the kind of company you’d want to keep.

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Joseph Jaffe is the author of "Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New Ones." He is also Chief Interruptor of Powered, a full-service social media agency that plans, builds, and activates measurable and enduring experiences between brands, their customers, and their online communities. He is the author of several previous books including "Life After the 30-Second Spot" and "Join the Conversation." Jaffe blogs and podcasts at Jaffe Juice and has his own video show, "Jaffe Juice TV."

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