What Manchester United's approach to recruitment can teach the ad industry

Added on by Leon Jacobs.

Sir Alex Ferguson is leaving his job as Man United's manager after 27 years (and one piece of gum - some say). He is without a doubt one of the most successful coaches in the history of football. Thanks to his genius, Man United has transformed into a global brand.

How do you replace a rock like that? Do you hire someone with a track record? Lots of trophies? A media rockstar? José Mourinho?

Man United has placed its hopes on David Moyes, the 50-year old Everton manager. They signed a six year contract for his services.

Some analysis suggests that Moyes was favoured because he shares the same coaching philosophy as Sir Alex. They even hail from the same corner of Scotland.

Man United has a much lower transfer bill than most clubs their size. And Moyes is known too for doing very much with very little at Everton. So, there is every indication that he will continue to build on this tradition at Old Trafford.

In advertising, when big personalities leave successful agencies, how often are they replaced with the José Mourinhos of the creative industry?

I have almost never been asked any of the following crucial questions during interviews for creative directing jobs:

  • What is your approach to budget split in the creative department? Ratio of senior to junior creatives?
  • What do you think has made us successful and what skills do you possess to build on this?

Too often, creative directors are hired for what they have achieved in other agencies - where, let's face it - the conditions were perfect for genius to strike. Great work never happens in a vacuum. There are loads of people with different skill-sets who all pour their hearts into the project at the exact right time. The creative director, the person at the end of the line gets the recognition and gets poached by a struggling agency who wants some of that magic - never realising that every great CD is surrounded by great people (sometimes through his own doing, and mostly those will be good creative, but the best work relies on good suits and planners). Inevitably, those agencies end up disappointed, often the relationship sours and a chunk of faith in the power of creativity is taken from everyone.

Any agency who wants the wind of great ideas to drive it to greatness, need to look deeper than a pretty face.

They need to do what Man United just did.