Pedigree Is Dog Food

Lewis Lazare: Talent Zoo, an ad agency headhunting firm that keeps tabs on hiring trends, often has insights we find to be on the mark. Its latest concern about a streak of “arrogance” in agency hiring these days struck us as worth sharing. Ragan Jones, associate vice president of recruiting, said:

In 2002, agencies could afford to be as picky as they wanted about hiring. They could demand pedigree and get it. In 2005, however, it is a candidate’s market, but most agencies out there just don’t get it. . . . Pedigree equates to experience working on big sexy accounts at big sexy agencies and graduation from a particular school — basically being the perfect “on paper” candidate.
Unfortunately, the ad agencies that do not see what is wrong with hiring based on pedigree alone are affecting the industry in a way that could jeopardize the industry’s future. Arrogance is killing this industry. Companies are willing to lose exceptionally talented people because they cannot see past their own egos or past a candidate’s first job at a less-than-stellar shop. It is . . . shifting the power and success to a certain few ad agencies, like Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Strawberry Frog, that actually get it. These companies use their brains — not their egos — to make hiring decisions.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. That’s not good. On the creative front, you would think that a portfolio and/or reel would first dictate what is good versus the agency’s notoriety.

  2. agencygirl says:

    And these @ssholes won’t pay either. 11 years and they want to pay out of college salaries.

  3. I don’t get this attitude either, especially in creative departments. Many times, the good unknown shops are full of people who used to work at the “pedigree” shops and left to do their own thing or get away from the politics.
    It could be that alot of hiring is run by committee, where people from all areas of the agency don’t want to look beyond their “dream” resume, rather than based on the intuition and evaluation of the creative heads.

  4. In my experience, big agency gate keepers can really foul things up. They’re told by the CCO what type of person to look for, and it’s often totally formulaic. For instance, if the shop does lots of TV, and a prospect doesn’t have a killer reel, then they don’t get past the gate keeper. A shop that practices this type of recruiting is not looking for the best minds in the business. They’re looking for robots.