Our CD: The Candidate that Almost Got Away

Typing text message. Side view of handsome young man in smart casual wear holding mobile phone while leaning at the brick wall

The Situation:

We were engaged by a large network advertising agency, known globally for their creative product and smart communications strategies. Their current Creative Director was moving back to the USA, and they only had a few months to make the fill. He had established a top-notch reputation in Canada, and had been headhunted to work at one of the world’s most innovative product design and technology companies. Needless to say, we had big shoes to fill.

Not only did this agency need someone who specialized in digital, but they wanted a hire who could work in a fully integrated agency environment and collaborate with those who were a bit more traditional in their experience. After meeting with the various client stakeholders (HR, CEO, CCO and CD) we were able to develop a full project brief to ensure that all aspects of the role, the agency’s short term and long term goals, the challenges and opportunities that were available, etc. were known. The brief was:
– Take our agency’s digital department to the next level by expansion but also strengthen it by leveraging the CD’s skill-set and knowledge in the field
– Keep the search Canadian only. Great talent, this client believes, can be found in our backyard
– Maintain the agency’s profile as one of the top in the country
– CD needs to be a great mentor to the team, not just exceptional creatively but a true leader

To begin the search, our team had a major research project to undertake. We carved out different strategies. Client wanted high caliber creative talent with the potential to win international awards, yet they wanted us to scope out talent from some of the smaller digital / innovation shops. We looked in many different places as we formed our candidate shortlist. The process was more of an exploratory one initially, looking at which organizations would nurture talent, teams and clients in the way that our client wanted. We looked high. We looked low. Our initial approach involved shortlisting about 100+ candidates and agencies to headhunt from. In working collaboratively with our client on the research component of the search, we were able to whittle down the search results to a handful. One individual stood out to us from the early stages, and after meeting with him we felt he was the perfect fit. That said, having just become a father he decided he was not ready for a move at the time we contacted him he took a pass. Two months into the search, we returned to him as the leading contender. While this was going on, client was starting to wonder if they should open the search up internationally. We considered it as well but we focused on our leading candidate who wasn’t ready for a move.

We did a thorough research study into the candidate’s background, and we presented him with our rationale as to why the agency needed him. We knew about his career objectives, from our meeting with him that month prior. We made a strong case for him to reconsider the opportunity and take the interview with the client. He is now a happy employee of our client.

Our Differentiator:

This wasn’t the kind of search where there was a long rolodex of ideal candidates. It truly involved an in-depth, well-researched approach to the search. Working collaboratively with the client and communicating the challenges along the way really helped to re-focus our strategy. It turns out, smaller digital / innovation firms were not the way to go in the search for this agency as the career path of the CD’s at these shops didn’t match the career path of the CD’s at some of the more established agencies. Client wanted us to go outside of the box with this hunt, and in the end we found someone they would have never have found on their own. We didn’t have to search globally, we were able to keep the search just as they wanted – in their own backyard.
We almost lost the right candidate, but in the end it truly was a match made in heaven.