Does Size Matter in the Talent War?

Leo Burnett, BBDO execs weigh in

How does Susan Credle, chief creative officer of Leo Burnett, sell job candidates on the agency? By making sure the pitch doesn't differ from the reality.

"I try to be brutally honest with them about what they're signing up for," she said Monday morning during "Winning the Talent War," one of the early panels at the 10th annual Advertising Week conference. "It's a big agency."

Size, though, isn't a key issue, according to Troy Ruhanen, chairman and CEO of the Americas at BBDO—one of the world's largest advertising networks. "I don't think people work with 900 people in an office," he said. "They work with 20. So, size really doesn't matter."

The executives, who worked together during Credle's time at BBDO, made their comments in context of a broad discussion that focused on the importance of cultivating the right vision and environment to produce great work and attract top talent in a fast-evolving marketplace. Other panelists included Anne Bologna, vp of brand strategy at Trip Advisor; Jon Collins, president of visual effects company Framestore; Melisa Goldie, CCO of Calvin Klein; Andre Coste, CFO of MDC Partners; Karina Wilsher, president of Anomaly; and Jay Haines, U.S. CEO of headhunter Grace Blue. The discussion was moderated by Charles Day, founder of leadership consultancy The Lookinglass.

What does matter, said Ruhanen, is making sure talent sticks around for a while. "I don't take an interview with a person who's moved around every 18 months or 2 years," he said. "I just fundamentally don't buy into that."

In reality, small creative agencies and big ones draw different types of personalities, said Haines.

"It's a great deal easier to attract people to the smaller businesses," he said. "They tend to attract more attention, they're more famous in the moment.  They have a clear articulation and clear delivery of their product, so people know much more clearly what they're buying into."

"The big corporate players will attract a different kind of animal," he added. "People who enjoy the scale. People who want to have a famous job."