The Changing Face of the Agency Employee
“Jack of all trades”
Most of us are familiar with this Elizabethan term that’s used equally to describe visionaries like Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci, as to discredit millennials with a frustrating lack of focus. In the modern agency world, however, the notion of being multidisciplinary has been granted new life as a prerequisite for employment (and success) in a digitally-minded landscape that is ever changing, ever more demanding and as a result, ever more challenging to keep up with. Those who can excel wearing lots of different hats (think: write copy, creative direct, sketch, take photos for social media, interface with clients and devise strategy all within a single day) have also earned a shiny, new name: Hybrids.
Speed Boats vs. Cruise Ships
Agencies have come a long way since their “Mad Men” days. Bill Bernbach’s Creative Revolution of the 1960’s brought about the partnership of copywriters and art directors, while the digital age added developers and coders to the mix. However, the silo-mentality that segregated disciplines in those agencies of old, is refusing to go quietly—and in some cases is so entrenched in the DNA and culture of creative shops that it has stymied their evolution and growth. The lines between marketing mediums (media, digital, social) have blurred, and so have the boundaries of traditional job descriptions to support them. Today’s consumer-driven world calls for a consumer-centric marketing approach. In fact, it’s the only strategy suitable for the speeding current of the rapid, fluid digital world in which consumers, not brands, have all the control. And that leaves much of the old, hulky traditionally segmented way of doing things bobbing sadly in its wake.
What’s Next: Agile Revolution & The Polymath Reincarnation
We are once again on the cusp of a new age of advertising and marketing. Smaller tests beat big bets, ongoing engagement is a way of life and Content is King. In order to be flexible and fast-acting (after all, who wants to be left behind commenting on the latest Game of Thrones plot twist?), the same flexibility must be required of its creators. Brands need agile agencies, and agile agencies need hybrids—also called polymaths, renaissance men or unicorns…OK, we’ll also answer to ninjas. People who are passionate about the work they do and are comfortable being uncomfortable. In other words, those who might spend their days playing any number of old-world roles: account director, producer, art director, UX designer, analytics specialist or strategist depending on the needs of the client challenge or what the moment dictates. And killing it every time.
Quora Design Director, David Cole wrote that “Learning is not a zero-sum activity.” That goes for everyone—agencies and employees. For too long, hunches have trumped real insights. And limiting talent with a too specific job-description trampled multipotentialities. But, no more. And that’s why we’ve been doing it differently all along.
Culture of Doing
When we conceived Scrum50, we planned on doing more with less. Less people, less time, less money. Better vision, better creative, better end results. We believe that agencies can work smarter and get even better results through agile marketing tenants where tight knit teams are working together empowered to take action and get results. When building the right staff to fulfill our vision of world-class creative, we looked long and hard to find nimble people with ambition and a “get it done, and get it done great” mentality. Most importantly, we wanted to put our multi-talented employees to the best use possible. So, what to do with a Project Manager that has an eye for creative? Or a Media Buyer who has a knack for writing social? You harness that shit.
These are talented individuals that not only have strengths in multiple areas, but do better when engaging in ALL of their skills. Ditching the siloed, single-focus mindset of the outdated agency structure, Scrum50’s polymath employees are able to develop their full potential by utilizing all of their strengths and skills. It works out for everyone. Employees are motivated and happy when they are challenged and do things that they love. And that translates into long-term employee loyalty as well as the best end result for our clients.
As modern Da Vincis, these standouts are shaking up the advertising landscape just like the renaissance men of old who combined their prowess for science, philosophy, theology and the arts to make amazing progress in the world.
Making Agile Work For You
So, how did we get here? We planned for it from the beginning. But you can start by retooling the way employees and roles are structured. Think about how you can get the most and best work for your clients out of the experts you already work with every day and mine for that talent. Then, make multipotentiality criteria moving forward as you add new people to your roster.
After 3 years, we haven’t looked back…not even once.
We’ve built an agency squad that’s more like a badass SWAT team. Polymaths picked at their peak for departments, like our Agile Content Studio which produces on-the-fly social posts. We’ve got editors who write, produce, and project manage—PrEditors for short. We’ve found gems right in our own backyard—like the incredible Dom, our Art Director who is multimedia-video-driven and an expert retoucher; or Erin, our Content Manager who is a social-writing, media-buying, insight-researching, analytics reporting powerhouse. To Dana, our Associate Content Director that writes as well as she strategizes, and Brad our UX and design guru and resident go-to guy.
We believe we’re set up for success, but our eyes are on the horizon. Keeping the momentum going and continuing to ride the wave of innovation is the ultimate goal. And we’ll do it until the winds of consumer behavior shift and the ever-changing marketing landscape send our multi-talented team of polymaths chasing the next adventure.