Last week’s Marketing Week featured an article about the continuing lack of diversity within brands’ marketing teams, and the need for their workforce to be more representative of the UK population. For us, it was a confirmation of something that we at The Wonderland take for granted, and which is still somewhat unique in the marketing industry.
We are an all-female agency. Now, before you point the finger back at us, I’d be the first to admit that we are not representative of the UK population either. However, this is due to a number of factors, and not by choice, but by circumstance.
We’re a boutique agency and recruiting is something we do once a year (if that) rather than once a month. At that point, we have our preferred channels through which to access the talent pool. We don’t influence who sits in that talent pool, we review C.V.s and decide who looks good on paper before interviewing. That’s it.
Last week, I told one of our clients we had just hired someone new. He immediately took the mickey out of me and said “What’s her name?” What’s more, he didn’t buy it when I told him we had actually had our sights on a male! Said male candidate accepted a job before we managed to get our hands on him. Recruitment is a fast moving feast!
Our industry looks for creative individuals that can bring ideas to the table, engage with clients, display enthusiasm, timely delivery and look after our hand-won work. Did I mention the requirement for quality? Not everyone has those qualities, not even those that do marketing and/or creative degrees. The ability to win and retain clients stems from these fundamentals. And we want the best people, never mind what their ethnicity or gender is. One of our first recruits was a man; he ticked all the boxes above and the combination of personalities created fabulous dynamics in our office. We still miss him now.
The Wonderland culture is not a typical agency culture. Yes, we work hard, push ourselves and drive towards excellence in our WonderGirls. But there is a personal aspect to it. We all have to get on. We’re at close proximity to each other in our compact and bijoux offices. This fuels our creativity, interaction and collaboration, but can sometimes cause stress and if one of us is in tears everyone is there to witness it. This is not the culture of the big agencies. Not everyone fits into our culture and a wrong decision at the recruitment stage will really bite us in the behind.
Not unsurprisingly, not everyone is cut out for agency life. With endless presenting, getting buy-in to ideas, dealing with rejection (in pitches); you have to have a pretty thick skin to deal with it and can’t get too precious about your ideas. Externally, our team is exposed to situations that can best be described as politically-incorrect. Then there is the client-entertainment aspect, which one has to have the right mind-set for.
On a different note, I worked client-side for years and, as a client it’s impossible to understand what agencies go through for their clients until you work at that side of the fence, as it were.
Think of the long journeys to clients’ offices, the early starts, the late finishes. You have to thrive on that, otherwise you’ll suffer with it.
We’re members of the CBI and the skills gap debate is held at government level. In our Nottingham/Derby region we have found that the quality of education can vary greatly between marketing and creative courses and topics. When recruiting, we have to consider that the best candidates may be outside of Nottingham, and if the right candidate is willing to move it’s a done deal. It comes back to finding the best candidate for our position, wherever they’re from.
We appreciate that it may be intimidating for a man to join an all-female agency and everything that comes with it. However, the right man will thrive with us, and so would anyone else, irrespective of origin, sex or style. Whoever is happy to embrace our culture and thrive in this industry, while displaying the skills that we’re after.