Agency Issues/Canadian Copywriter Agency Issues/Canadian Copywriter
  • Hot One Day. Tepid The Next
  • Agency Turnover

    The 'Swinging Gate' Syndrome is still alive and well at Canada's ad agencies. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any other industry with as much employee turnover as the advertising industry. By some estimates, 25 to 30 per cent of an agency's roster leaves after completing only one year of service, which puts holes in an agency's lineup, impacts negatively on employee morale, confuses clients and inevitably affects the bottom line. Faced with these problems, agencies must plow money into recruitment and training for new employees -- since poaching talent from other agencies is more expensive and only drives up average salaries. Yet even when faced with this high attrition rate, the people who run Canada's ad agencies claim that retaining employees is a key priority for them, although the high turnover rate would suggest otherwise. Another key factor is headhunters. Since their salaries are earned by introducing hot new prospects to agency heads, they're more than willing to find a replacement for an employee they've placed the week before. Another reason why agency people move around is the awards shows. When agency personnel win awards, they perceive themselves as worth more on the market. Other agencies will try to scoop them -- and the whole vicious circle will begin again. The experts say that agencies can do a better job of retaining key employees by developing and training their staff. Although it may seem like a waste of resources to train employees who will eventually change agencies, advertising agencies need to plan career paths for their employees, making certain they get the skills needed to eventually assume leadership positions. Experts also recommend that agencies shouldn't pigeon-hole staff. Research proves that copy writers and art directors don't usually change shops for more money but for better creative opportunities. Giving them opportunities to work on more creative accounts, instead of the run of the mill ones, makes them more likely to stay. And, of course, the bottom line is show the money. Demonstrate to employees how much they're worth by boosting pay and benefits before they get another offer.

    Hot To Not So Hot

    It's a sad fact of agency life that an agency can be "hot" one day, then "not so hot" the next. As an example, let's take the case of Downtown Partners. Last year, Downtown Partners was one red hot agency. Its advertising for Forzani's Group's Sport Chek brand won numerous awards at domestic award shows. The agency created Budweiser ads that ran in the Super Bowl and it was responsible for the Alexander Keith ads that featured an off-the-wall Scotsman who razzed everybody about their taste in beer. Its Bud Light Institute campaign was also lauded around the world. Then, suddenly, the roof caved in!. Alexander Keith's main actor was charged with possession of child pornography and that campaign, of course, went totally down the drain. Then Downtown Partners heard that they were being passed over in an agency review in favour of Calgary-based Venture Communications. And Anheiser-Busch passed the agency over for Super Bowl ads for the past two years. Okay, so what duh heck happened? Generally, agencies start out with an ambition to do great work. If they make it through the first year or two and they start doing terrific work, it gets very hard to continue doing great work because clashes often start. When people win awards, they grow huge egos and that can cause the fur to fly -- particularly when the "artist" goes head to head with the "bean-counter". For example: the "creatives" will demand paid vacations to go to Fiji for a bathing suit commercial while the "suits" will book them into a downtown studio and ask them to "make do" with a sandbox. What's the answer? It's a personnel issue. Make sure you have people who know their limitations and know "which oar they must pull" in a team effort. Make sure everyone knows the strategy and the eventual objective of each advertisement. And make sure the budget is strictly adhered to, but without penny-pinching. Good luck. Enjoy!