Q&A: Nick Moore, chief creative officer of Wunderman
Nick Moore leads the creative teams at Wunderman in New York, one of the largest direct marketing agencies. He explains his perspective on hiring.
Q: Staff turnover seems to be a constant in the creative field. How can agencies retain talent and develop loyalty more effectively?
A: Five or 10 agency names seem to crop up on a lot of resumes, because they are great training organizations, and other agencies know that those people will be professional. Part of managing a creative group is giving people new things and keeping things fresh, and sometimes that takes them out of the agency, which isn't always a bad thing. It allows us to rotate new talent in. As long as it's done in an orderly way, a reasonable amount of rotation is healthy. As in all walks of life, there are few people who do this and still fewer who are brilliant at it, so we're always chasing stars.
Q: Which are the great training facilities? Are these always the largest agencies?
A: You have to have a certain size just to be able to afford to do it, but you also need a clear philosophy about how communications works and how it adds value to brands. At the core is a combination of learnt expertise and the skills we have as a corporate body of knowledge, plus flair and individual brilliance when we're lucky.
Q: Is there a talent deficit, and if so, whose responsibility is it to remedy that situation?
A: I'm not sure there's a talent deficit, but over the past 10 years, the job has become a lot harder. You can't just know about direct mail and print and declare yourself capable of advising a client. You have to understand the digital space, the impact of social media and how to drive an idea through that multitude of channels and, along the way, retain the traditional skills of getting response, which is a surprisingly little-known topic. That's why it's worth reading the old books, along with the new blogs.
Q: "Direct" is sometimes seen as an antiquated term. Who should work to keep the discipline fresh?
A: It's a difficult question. Having a label and being able to say "this is what we do" makes life easier. In America "direct" has some bad associations. We can all laugh about the Snuggie and spam and quite rightly because it's not all good, but direct is broader than that. Lester Wunderman often follows up his story of coining the term "direct marketing" with an explanation that it's not the most accurate one. On one hand, maybe a neutral group could update the term, but there's also the power of the crowd, so it's also up to those of us working in the discipline as well.
Q: Should the goal for all companies be to become as targeted as possible in their communications?
A: I worry about anyone who says "we know exactly what you want," because advertising is about introducing new products and services and letting people explore things they wouldn't have otherwise. A great San Francisco ad man named Howard Luck Gossage said people read what interests them and sometimes it's an ad. It's our job to be invited into those conversations and tell stories that people wish to tell one another.