Former Ogilvy and Fallon executive Mandana Mellano is opening a boutique talent and recruiting practice in Los Angeles. To take on traditional recruiting in the current age of marketing disruption, Peony will focus less on recruiting for scale or the current practices in serving C-level talent.
“We can’t continue to hire talent in silos for roles that have not evolved in decades and then expect integration and modernization in return,” said Mellano, who currently serves as a vice president at Thinknear by Telenav.
At its heart, the agency places a premium on assisting agencies, marketers and technology companies in recruiting and retaining talent in more cross-functional roles. Additionally, Mellano seeks to modernize the recruiting process by focusing on matchmaking that finds common ground through an in-depth assessment process that places more of a premium on cultural matches.
“There are nuances involved when assessing and developing talent that is only attainable when you have built teams, managed day-to-day business and operated in functional roles,” explained Mellano, who founded the company alongside a team of industry researchers and a diverse group of senior advisors in leadership roles at companies including the Wall Street Journal, Criteo and University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication.
Adweek caught up with Mellano to learn more about her goals for the practice.
Adweek: Why did you decide that it was time to start a consultancy?
Mellano: There’s both a personal and a professional reason. Professionally, for years, many industry friends and I have experienced and shared our frustration with talent recruitment and retention. It’s been such a huge pain point, and we felt like it’s only getting worse. Along the way, I paid very close attention to what’s working, what’s not working, and realized that there was this gap in both practice and culture of recruiting.
There are highbrow executive search firms that are primarily focused on C-suite corporate roles. And then on the other side of the spectrum, you have this super dirty, salesy headhunting business. And in the middle, we have this hodgepodge of recruiters who know very little about the nuances and challenges of the agency world from within, particularly when we talk about cross-functional competencies in our world today.
I’ve been a client and a candidate, and, frankly, that experience is broken on both ends. I think that really has been the catalyst for me to believe that this is the right time now to do something to fill that gap.
You have a deep agency background. Where will you focus your recruiting efforts?
I’ve grown up on the agency side, and I think I’m closest to it, but the goal of Peony is also to connect the cross-functional elements between technology, advertising and entertainment. Our sweet spot is director level and up, the up-and-coming leaders in this world.
Other than agencies, tech—and, specifically, ad tech—will be a significant portion of what we do. Studios will be another bucket, focused on particular roles within their marketing communications, analytics and data.
Also, we won’t advertise jobs or post publicly. Nor will we list our clients publicly. It’s all absolutely confidential, and I think that is huge with more senior people who might feel uncomfortable with their names, titles and resumes floating around.
What did you learn in your agency background that is going to inform your decision making as you build the business?
Job descriptions are not permanent. I think a commitment to revisiting and rewriting some of those job descriptions is a critical first step for agencies. I’ve seen many job descriptions that haven’t been touched in many years or that haven’t even been written by the hiring team.