Why Agency Search Consultants Are Like Casting Directors

by Dan Pearlman , Bob Wolf Partners/TPG

Metaphors are powerful literary devices used to communicate complex ideas. Agency search consultants often have difficulty explaining the myriad of roles and responsibilities required by the position. In order to help agency search consultants clarify "what they do" to others -- and even themselves -- they should view themselves as casting directors. It's a metaphor uniquely suited for the competitive and dynamic professional lives of these unsung heroes in the advertising industry.

Like the making of a motion picture from Jurassic World to Minions, the creation of advertising and all marketing communications campaigns involves both science and art. It is a very collaborative endeavor that involves various people and objectives. Ultimate control with the making of a motion picture rests with the director, just as a marketing campaign rests with the client.

A client working with an agency search consultant is very similar to the relationship of a director working with a great casting director. The consultant must know the script (marketing strategy), must understand the audience (consumer), and must know the likely actors (agencies… be they stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or unknowns).

In evaluating the likely actors, casting directors need to identify the pin-up girl, the femme fatale, the heartthrob or the tough sheriff – and consultants need to do the same in advertising. Most casting directors go to many opening nights of various plays (consultants go on regular agency visits), offer professional counsel and training to sharpen the actor’s skills, and selectively offer the worthy prospects a big break (take on a deserving long-shot agency). Agency search consultants must also – like casting directors do for head directors – be able to spot hidden talent and value first. Ultimately, both casting directors and agency search consultants look for chemistry and talent that will hopefully lead to break-through performances.

Sometimes, the experienced casting director (agency search consultant) may bring in fewer actors (agencies) than usual or is expected. This is fine. Their training and experience allows them to sense an intangible quality beyond the normal evaluative criteria. Rejected actors (agencies) should value the feedback they receive from the casting director (agency search consultant). Agencies must learn how to internalize constructive criticism to improve and truly tap into their potential. And since both actors and agencies need ongoing encouragement, casting directors and consultants have the unique ability to make painful failures and losses more palatable.

In short, both casting directors and agency search consultants are the unsung heroes of their respective industries. They create a productive environment and relationships that lead to better work, and helps set the stage for truly creative breakthroughs that can achieve unprecedented success.