Column: The Multinational’s Talent Dilemma
March 08, 2013 | Ari Aronson | Comments
WPP to Publicis execs: Come work for us!
It’s not always easy being the big global conglomerate when it comes to seeking out new talent. Outsiders might see the big ad network heavyweights throwing that weight around and gobbling up whatever agencies they want in one gulp (witness WPP with its deal with John St. this week).
But sometimes it’s hard being so big that you already own a lot of the firms in a local market. And that can result in a firm like WPP resorting to some rather unsophisticated practices that, as in one recent instance, look more like a spamming exercise.
A recruitment email from WPP to key executives from rival agency Publicis Groupe was reprinted in AdAge.com this week. It’s from the WPP New York talent team and targets the Chicago area with the message “WPP has a very high awareness of you.”
An excerpt from WPP’s recruitment email
I am a member of the WPP Talent Team, based in New York. We are charged with proactively meeting top talent in the market to build relationships with key people who can be called upon to lead and staff new and existing business initiatives serving WPP clients around the world.
WPP has a very high positive awareness of you. That said, one of our senior recruiters, [redacted], will be in Chicago the week of March 18th and would like to set up a time to meet with you and learn more about your background and experience. Her bio is attached for your review.
Please let me know if you have availability to meet with [redacted] while she is in the area.
WPP has a deep talent pool, but it’s also a long and wide pool – they are obviously reluctant to poach from their own brother and sister agencies. The upshot is that with every new acquisition (a la Taxi, Blast Radius or John St.), the big firms are forced to do whatever they can to recruit talent in other major networks (Publicis, Omnicom, MDC) and a smaller and diminishing pool of proven Canadian independents (Grip, Rethink, Sid Lee).
This presents a real challenge in the Canadian market for WPP, which owns 38 different agencies, marketing, PR, media and research firms including JWT, Wunderman, Y&R, Grey, Ogilvy, Sonic Boom plus the aforementioned Taxi, Blast Radius and now John St.
Adding top agency talent is not easy to begin with. Couple this with the added challenges of trying not to eat your own sibling agency’s talent and you can’t really blame WPP for taking such extreme measures with mass email recruitment efforts. It shows how serious they are at wanting to take over the ad agency world one-niche agency at a time.
Ari Aronson is the Founder & Executive Recruiter of Ari Agency, a boutique digital recruitment firm