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Evolution of the Recruitment Advertising Agency

February 28

"Thanks but I'm not interested in advertising."

That was the response I received during a recent first call with an employer after I told him that TMP is the world's largest independent recruitment advertising agency. At first I was slightly taken aback, doesn't he know that TMP is the Digital Brand Authority; that we understand today's jobseekers like no one else; that we swallow lightning and breathe out award-winning creative solutions? Doesn't he read the monthly edition of The Edge and value our thought leadership via our industry events, our macro and even micro blogs? I mean, yes, the word Advertising is in our agency classification but why does he think that we just specialize in advertising? How disparaging. Then in the 1.5 milliseconds it took me to synthesize all of those thoughts, I realized that he was 100% correct in responding the way that he did.

Many employers currently or in the past have worked with recruitment advertising agencies. (Note that I deliberately wrote "worked with" vs "partnered with." It's a common agency theme: we want to be considered partners but unfortunately, many agencies continue to operate as strictly vendors). Several years ago a client/agency relationship likely entailed your agency writing and submitting your print ads and job postings, developing creative campaigns, producing collateral, etc. A client/agency relationship was more finite, more defined back then. What does it mean today, though? What should it mean? Why should an employer take a call from a recruitment advertising agency — for lack of a better term? Employers are besieged like never before with salespeople, like me, who want a chunk of their time. If I call you and just want to discuss your recruitment advertising, creative and collateral needs, don't take my call.

The relationship between clients and recruitment advertising agencies has evolved. (If it hasn't, time for a new agency or higher expectations.) No longer can an agency walk in with a set of solutions that they seek to apply to an employer's challenges. That won't work. The only thing we can and should walk in with is the right people who can ask the right questions — and listen. In my last Edge article, I wrote about fundamental challenges and solutions that never went away but are sometimes lost or not properly prioritized due to the proliferation of the blinding shiny tools available to employers and agencies. That is what we should be talking about with employers. Do you want us to run your ads, manage your media and develop a creative campaign? We'd be happy to and we happen to very good at it. But do those tactics alone deliver the value and results that our client partners are held to and must hold their agencies accountable to? I don't believe so. Don't get me wrong, tactics must be expertly executed and optimized. They likely represent a significant portion of an employer's recruitment budget and visibility to candidates. But on their own, they are tactics. And left on their own, they may be the noise before defeat.

The good news for employers is that many of you do not need a ground up revamp of everything you're doing from a recruitment and retention perspective (some employers do for valid reasons and I ask those that do to please answer the phone, that's me calling), but more and more employers primarily need a refinement of their existing programs. Through consulting, the best agencies will identify existing program gaps that hinder an employer from achieving maximum effectiveness, then provide an actionable and measurable near- and long-term plan that includes many check-ins to ensure we continue to progress our customers' strategic initiatives and never take a step backwards.

Speaking of consulting, here at TMP we've internally chatted about whether we are more appropriately classified as a recruitment consultancy. We shied away from that for a few reasons; one being that many employers are still comfortable and familiar with the recruitment advertising agency moniker. So externally, we won't be calling ourselves a consultancy any time soon. But, the best agencies will consult with you. We have to. And that should be the largest area of value that we provide, inclusive of expertly implementing and optimizing tactics: guiding employers to realizing their full potential; helping to shore up their internal tools so they also become more self-sufficient and effective. If we do our jobs correctly, employers are less likely to rely on tactics (advertising, media, collateral, etc.) and exhibit even less reliance on their agencies. That wouldn't seem to be the best business plan for TMP; but, I'm happy to report that it is a model that works for us. When an agency prioritizes their clients and the achievement of their clients' goals over any of the agency's business objectives, both the client and the agency will always win.

My promise to all of those employers who aren't yet familiar with TMP's lightning-swallowing prowess is that we will always try to ask the right questions and listen. Where we go from there, I'm not sure. But, I do know that it will be the right step forward for that employer and a step closer to TMP becoming your partner.

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