As ad hiring wars heat up, agencies cling to top talent
San Francisco Business Times - May 13-19, 2005
by Allyce Bess

Five years ago, dot-coms were imploding, large companies were slashing budgets and a lot of ad and PR folk were getting the ax as a result. Now, creative professionals are in high demand.

So much so that demand is turning to desperation among some firms, said Michael Cooper, a principal at Paragon Strategies, a [training and meeting facilitation] firm in San Francisco.

"Agencies are not only having a hard time finding people, they're worried about poaching from other agencies," said Cooper, who said Paragon works mostly with medium to large firms.

"HR managers say 'if you can send us anybody from the other firms you're working with, we'll give you a referral fee,'" Cooper said. "Which, of course, we don't do," he added. Cooper also said firms are increasingly hiring from outside the industry -- even ethnographers are being eyeballed.

Its' a big enough concern that 125 people have already signed up for Paragon's "Creative Agency Summit" May 25 at the World Trade Club at the Ferry Building. The conference will cost $97 per person. (Cooper said the firm isn't making a profit from the event, just recouping its costs.)

The goals is to help PR and ad agencies attract new employees and to stop employees' eyes from roving.

Speakers at the conference include John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University; Courtney Bannister, human resources director at Grey San Francisco; Jean McKenzie, president of McKenzie & Associates; Kelly McKenna, management supervisor at Manning Selvage & Lee; and Lisa Warren, human resources director at Access Communications.