Fighting Tech for Talent

R/GA's Greenberg discusses the hiring landscape

Worrying over talent drain is among the ad industry's favorite pastimes. But the concern may be reaching new heights as agencies grapple to hang onto a young workforce that's more restless than previous generations, and face a competitive field that's expanded to include technology giants.

It's no longer just a fight between traditional and digital agencies, according to R/GA Chairman Bob Greenberg. "It's the Googles and the eBays and typical companies that need to have a digital capability internally," he said Monday morning during a panel with Fast Company editor Bob Safian. While skilled programmers are in generally high demand, companies like Google and Facebook are also hiring creative professionals with agency experience.

Meanwhile, there's far more churn on the agency side than previously, per Greenberg: “In the Mad Men era, people made a long-term commitment to agencies and organizations,” he said. “That just isn't happening now." Case in point: R/GA’s New York headquarters has grown from 1,000 to 1,200 since the beginning of 2011—but that took some 500 new hires, according to stats Greenberg provided Safian.

There are opportunities abroad, though, to capitalize on cheaper talent. The Buenos Aires office, for example, “is a full-service, digitally centered agency doing everything we do in New York with the talent being at the same level, but where they’re less expensive because of the problems of their government,” said Greenberg. “You can find that also, for instance, in Cape Town.”