Geek Charming: How Agencies Can Attract Digital Talent


ADOTAS – The war is over.

It’s official. The ones and zeros have invaded. We must all welcome our new digital overlords.

Technology has worked its way into every aspect of our everyday lives and continues to drastically reshape the advertising industry. Who has a working compass? Who can point us in the right direction? Who will guide us through the digital fog that surrounds us? The geeks will. The developers, the technologists, the programmers are the ones who carry the lantern. With technology so ubiquitous, so pervasive, how do we attract people with the right skills to lead us through the unknown?

Almost the entire world has woken up blind, and we all need someone to show us the way. Every sector imaginable is desperate to add geek know-how to their teams. We are all attempting to climb Mount Everest, but there’s a severe shortage of Sherpas. Most technologists didn’t learn their trade intending to end up in our industry. What’s to prevent them going to work for a startup, or the government, or even a massive geek haven like Google or Facebook?

In order to attract the kind of top-tier talent that we need, what do we do? How can we change people’s perceptions of a career in advertising? We start by playing to our strengths.

Be Creative

What an agency can offer digital talent is first and foremost creativity. We have many different people with diverse skills under one banner, the creative department. The copywriter’s medium is the written word, and the art director works with pixels. The same goes for the programmer, whose medium is code. The creative department is where our digital talent belongs. We can attract these kinds of people by offering them the opportunity to use both sides of their brains. Positions like Creative Technologist are tasked not only with the implementation, but also the intention. We need to sell the idea that in another industry this new generation of talent will be stuck implementing other people’s ideas. Advertising has been and always will be built around a foundation of ideation.

Culture Party

From ping-pong tables to beer machines, advertising is filled with informality and the understanding that creativity comes from the most unusual places. Most agencies strive to create a fun atmosphere, because that’s what we do for our clients. We make their brands interesting, fun and poignant. The freedom that’s found in these environments is something that digital talent desires. We just have to show them it exists. There are great numbers of young people in hooded sweatshirts just waiting for us to say that it’s cool to come hang out.

Hybrids Are In

Let’s face it. Millennials are an impatient bunch. They have grown up in an environment where thousands of pieces of content are simultaneously bombarding them for attention. A positive consequence of this situation is that they’ve turned out to be amazing, well-rounded people. The concept of people doing just one thing in their career, which used to be a popular sentiment, is completely foreign to this group.  In advertising, these kinds of hybrids are both rare and very highly valued. Convince your new digital talent that they will not be bored.  Show them how they’ll be constantly challenged in different ways and they’ll flock to you in interest.

Find The Future

Want to really attract some digital talent? Start an R&D department at your company.  Give people the opportunity to experiment, to find new ways to reach an audience.  Hire talent to look for the edge of technology and where it can intersect with your agency’s work. Who knows what the landscape will be like ten years from now. Have them create amazing projects beyond the client scope and see the attention gravitate towards your excellence in all things technological. Bring people on to help you predict the future. Everyone wants to be an explorer.


Be an agency that makes things. Stop sending every single piece of your production work to vendors that deliver mediocre results and also cost more than creating projects in-house. Outsource the mundane instead. Let your people have a hand in the cool projects, the ones that people would be proud to say, “I made that.” These evangelists will help not only with internal morale but also with spreading your own gospel to the rest of the world, including possible new hires. Encourage a “make” culture and see your reputation grow.


Advertising is a perfect destination for emerging digital talent. All we need do is just convince them. Show that we can give them an opportunity to flourish creatively as well as the ability to draw outside the lines. The industry has been playing a rather charming song for a while now, whether it knows it or not. It just needs to up the volume, so the geeks can hear through their tiny white earbuds.



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