When attracting the best, size does matter

Integrated agencies don’t have to go above and beyond to find the best talent, their size is their secret weapon, says Sam Williams-Thomas

If the question of how to attract and retain top talent was addressed to agencies in general, the answer would be: offer interesting work, a pleasant atmosphere, competitive money and a good package of benefits.

But it’s not. It’s addressed to integrated agencies like Ogilvy, with a clear inference that they have to go above and beyond offering the shopping list above.

In fact, integrated agencies don’t actually have to do anything more. That’s not meant to sound like a cop-out; it’s just that we already have an advantage up our sleeve: our size. Before you get all wound up by my sweeping generalisation, I accept that you can have large single discipline agencies and small agencies that offer a variety of services. However, they tend to be exceptions to the rule. The term ‘integrated’ is usually synonymous with large. And with size, you get opportunity.

We have more than 20 B2B clients on our books, so our people get exposure to a range of sectors including financial services, technology, manufacturing, professional services and automotive. For a candidate seeking variety, it’s an attractive prospect (once you’ve realised you’ve got to cut your teeth on a single client). 

Then there are the many areas of expertise you’ll find at Ogilvy, from behavioural science and customer engagement to consulting and branding and design. With all these disciplines in-house, you’ve got a ready-made supply of experts on hand to bounce ideas off. If you’re relentlessly curious, always asking searching questions and wanting to learn new things (I’m paraphrasing our manifesto here), this is invaluable. Sure, boutique and specialist agencies can form partnerships with external companies and advisors,  but you can’t beat the convenience of having the experts you need in your own building.

With all these disciplines working side-by-side, it’s inevitable that employees will occasionally fancy trying their hand at something different. Admittedly, they’re not exactly free to jump from one discipline to another whenever the mood takes them, but if people need change or a new challenge, we’d sooner have talent move within the Ogilvy family than disappear out the door. So, we try and make it work.

Finally, clients generally approach specialist agencies with tasks suited to their capabilities, DM, PR, advertising and so on. Clients approach us with complex marketing problems that span a number of disciplines. Pitching for such projects, therefore, involves collaboration, between teams, departments, even time zones – and it generates the excitement top talent craves. 

Finally, let’s flip the question around and consider what top talent has to do to attract the attention of an integrated agency like Ogilvy. We’ll skip over enthusiasm, ambition and a can-do attitude as they tend to crop up on every CV. No, the quality we like to see is humility, by which I mean the ability to recognise that there will always be someone smarter than you, someone more creative, someone more insightful, someone from whom you can learn. These people are worth seeking out, and when you’re in an integrated agency, you won’t have to look far.

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