Traditional agencies are driving away their digital superstars with their old ways

dan_monheit_hard_hatIn this guest post, Daniel Monheit argues that Australia’s creative agencies will never be able to hang on to digital talent

In 2010 Steve Jobs was invited by James Murdoch to speak at the annual News Corp management retreat. Jobs issued a blunt, critical assessment of what newspapers were trying to do in technology: “You’re going to find it hard to get things right, because you’re in New York and anyone who’s any good at tech works in Silicon Valley”.

And that’s when it hit me. The reason why Australia’s best traditional agencies, working with the most prolific clients and the biggest budgets cant manage to put out anything remotely passable as decent digital work.

Anyone who’s any good at digital works at an agency that actually believes in it.

Not believes in it as a way to tack another $30k on to a campaign budget or something for the new interns to play with. Agencies that believe that the future of our industry is digital. It’s opt in. It’s creating valuable experiences, not interrupting them. It’s building efficiencies and reducing costs for our clients, just as much as it’s growing their revenues. It’s not what it’s been for the last 70 years. And it’s awesome.

People who subscribe to this view don’t last six months in traditional agencies. They suffocate, or are crushed under the weight of endless banner campaigns and microsite rollouts based on print ads. Their brilliance, ingenuity and ambition goes unnoticed in the opulent shrines dedicated to 30 second spots, catchy jingles and 10% commissions.

The people best placed to lead this revolution are the ones being told to keep calm and carry on. Think the same. Digital is just another channel.

Is it any wonder they leave?

As the talented few are driven to the upstarts, the inevitable next wave of great agencies continues to gain momentum. Without the right people, the traditionals have no choice but to keep pushing digital to the bottom of the list, ignoring its fundamental differences and churning out more of the same.

They’ll keep enticing the superstars of tomorrow with huge salaries and exciting job titles, but just as quickly kill them with bureaucracy, old habits and outdated beliefs that just wont die. They’ll blame the turnover on “typical gen Ys”, and one day wonder where it all went wrong. Just like the newspapers.



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