Lately I’ve had a few college students stop by the office and ask me how to break into advertising as a young account planner. When I have these conversations I touch on three things: 1) Market Economics, 2) Agency Percentage, 3) Other Ways In. This is a good time to share them with you as the semester winds down and students are ready to conquer the world of Advertising.
MARKET ECONOMICS When I arrived in San Francisco in the year 2000 people were tripping over advertising jobs. The Dot Com was in full swing. I decided to choose a city that I knew was booming… plus I knew agency recruiters were struggling to get people to choose agencies over online companies. Today the booming markets appear to be Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai and Sydney. If you want to stay in the U.S., New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles appear to be stronger than other markets for young staffers.
I arrived on Sunday and interviewed with three agencies that week including FCB, Chiat/Day and Hal Riney. By Thursday I had two job offers but I still couldn’t get a job in account planning. Even with a great economy I had to start out in account service and move into planning. I know planners that started out in Media, Creative and even Office Services before getting a chance to be a junior planner.
AGENCY PERCENTAGE The reason that I started out in account service is an agency staff percentage issue. In my experience most agencies have 3-5% of their staff strategists (we are lucky at BBH, it’s around 10%). In Agencies below 300 total staffers, they are going to have most of their planners mid to senior level so they can be client facing and add value and advice on day one. Agencies above 300 total staffers are more likely to have enough staff to warrant junior planners. Big agencies with big accounts are a great place to learn the fundamentals of account planning and then you can move to a more creative agency.
Those spots are precious and hard to come by where else can you look? Try to find the institutions that hire 80%+ of their staff as strategists.
OTHER WAYS IN Brand Consulting Firms have a high staff percentage as strategists. They get to work on a new client and a new audience every 10 weeks or so. They get to travel the world learning how to moderate groups, lead brainstorms, concept new products and names and work closely with senior clients. They have been known to hire smart people right out of college.
I left Hal Riney to join a brand consultancy. I learned the fundamentals over 2-3 years and came back to agency life to work closer with creative teams. Here are some consulting firms that I like (mostly in markets that I know):
The Head of Strategy position at any ad agency is a very demanding job. So demanding that they sometimes (not all the time) need recruiters or head hunters to help them find the best talent when they have open positions.
This is a list of account planning recruiters that I compiled over the last nine years or so. I know this does not represent all the recruiters out there but it should give people a start if you don't know any and are looking for new career opportunities. By making this information open and transparent I hope it will help match good strategic planners with good agencies. Bad agencies shouldn't have good talent.
If you are a student or a junior advertising staffer don't get your hopes up. Agencies rarely hire outside recruiters to find people with very little experience. They hire outside recruiters for tough to fill jobs. They get paid on finding good qualified candidates with experience. I worked as a brand consultant and junior account planner for 3-5 years before I could get the attention of a recruiter. Even then it was nearly impossible for the recruiter to sell me in that economy. Understand this and set your expectations before you reach out to them. I wish somebody had told me that.
ACCOUNT PLANNING RECRUITERS ORGANIZED BY HOME OFFICE LOCATION
01. [AUSTIN] Chris Stephens - firstname.lastname@example.org 02. [AUSTIN] Lisa Kojis - lisa.kojis@PrincetonOne.com 03. [CHICAGO] Sherri Bedster Kessel - email@example.com 04. [CHICACO] Amy Sroka - firstname.lastname@example.org 05. [CHICAGO] Lisa Casper - email@example.com 06. [DALLAS] Lisa Gordon - firstname.lastname@example.org 07. [FLORIDA] Brian Kissel - email@example.com 08. [LA] Robert Cormier - firstname.lastname@example.org 09. [LA] Melanie Otey - email@example.com 10. [LA] Julie Sandler - firstname.lastname@example.org 11. [LA] Serena Wolf - serena@WolfCreativeCo.com 12. [LA] Lisa Pescherine - email@example.com 13. [LA] Jamie McCaan - firstname.lastname@example.org 14. [LA] Laura Laser - email@example.com 15. [LA] Karen Morgan - firstname.lastname@example.org 16. [LAS VEGAS] Julie Aron - email@example.com 17. [LONDON] Caroline Watt - firstname.lastname@example.org 18. [NORTH CAROLINA] Robin Haggard - email@example.com 19. [NYC] Ada Alpert - firstname.lastname@example.org 20. [NYC] Debbie Strobel - email@example.com 21. [NYC] Elizabeth Lukas - firstname.lastname@example.org 22. [NYC] Wendy Klein - email@example.com 23. [NYC] Stephanie Redlener - firstname.lastname@example.org 24. [NYC] Rati Vaishya - email@example.com 25. [NYC] Lori Bring - firstname.lastname@example.org 26. [NYC] Stephen Regan - email@example.com 27. [NYC] Ryan Brogan - firstname.lastname@example.org 28. [NYC] Sharon Spielman - email@example.com 29. [SAN FRANCISCO] Christina Murphy - firstname.lastname@example.org 30. [SYDNEY] Richard Scott - email@example.com
You'll notice that I included the home base or city for each of these recruiters. That makes it easier to meet them in person but most recruiters handle job placements all over the country. Find recruiters that you have good chemistry with, understand the business and those that will sell your value. I have my personal favorites but I'll leave it up to you to find the right fit for your personality.