Where are all the Aussies in our agencies?

Gary NissimIn a piece that first appeared in Encore, Gary Nissim asks why there are so few Australians working in local digital agencies. 

Over the years clients have often asked me why digital agencies don’t employ Australians. I’m obviously proud of the cultural diversity of my business – Australian, Brazilian, Chinese, Colombian, English (that’s me), Indian, Indonesian, and a token Kiwi – but it’s an important question: why are Aussies a minority within digital agencies?

It is important for a number of reasons, mostly because employing homegrown talent is crucial in future proofing our industry but also because it is better for business to have some locals on staff.

Agency employees born and bred in Australia better understand the brands we represent and the subtle nuances of this market – for example, here we search for ‘home loans’ not ‘mortgages’. Mobile penetration and consumption is among the most advanced in the world. We buy digital media through different publishers. Our market is unique – just because something worked in the UK or US doesn’t mean it will here.

There are three main bodies responsible for the discernible lack of Aussies in digital agencies and so the answer to the problem is also threefold.

Recruitment consultancies

The vast majority of CVs we receive are from foreign nationals – not foreign nationals in the country but people in another hemisphere. LinkedIn and the pull of moving to Australia make targeting foreign nationals the easiest option for recruiters. I don’t blame them for choosing the path of least resistance, but it’s the start of the issue.


457 visas are easy to obtain and our clients’ requirements are immediate. We have a need and we cannot wait. The recruiters place a foreign CV in front of us and we employ them.

Education and universities

In our last graduate recruitment drive, we had 29 applicants, of which only one was born in Australia. Take that a step further, we’ve employed two interns in the past six months but never had interest from an Australian. This issue, and I do believe it to be an issue, is self-perpetuating and therefore the solution isn’t easy. It will take time and investment but the benefits are obvious.

The same bodies that are responsible are the ones that can break the cycle. Here’s how:

Recruitment consultancies

They need to find the most suitable candidates possible. What happened to old-school ‘search and selection?’ I’m happy to pay the additional costs needed to import foreign nationals to the recruiters if that helps. That upfront investment would stem the need to interview via Skype and would enable us to recruit candidates who understand this market and can hit the ground running.


Agencies need to employ internal recruiters or find recruiters who are prepared to go the extra mile and headhunt suitable candidates. They also need to target current employees from traditional media and give them a new skill set. Curating graduate days ensures we’re building from the ground up, but we need to increase our involvement with universities, helping sculpt their curriculum and grow interest in the industry.

Education and universities

Among the possible career options for graduates, digital marketing has to be one of the most attractive. It’s fun, young, the rulebook hasn’t been written and the future is extremely bright. Universities need to do more to get their students interested in digital marketing, working more closely with the industry.

I’m not saying our organisation isn’t partially to blame but we’re taking steps in the right direction. We have instructed recruitment agencies not to send us CVs of candidates outside of the country. We’re actively recruiting graduates from local universities and are directly headhunting within the industry. It’s a small step, but we’ll continue to try and make a difference where we can.

Gary Nissim is the general manager of WPP’s Agency M.

Issue 21This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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