The quiet revolution – Why introverts will gradually take over Madison Avenue

If recruitment for the marketing industry was brutally honest, most agencies (and companies) are still looking for the classic Don Draper type, that bold and charming, big ideas salesman. But as technology and data become increasingly important, are those really the only skills we should be looking for? It’s time to re-evaluate how we can establish a balance between extroverts and introverts to deliver the best work and client relationships.

The advertising industry has always been reliant on extroverts, particularly in client servicing roles. Look around a media/creative agency today and you’ll still find the most stereotypical of ‘suits’. Of course, you’re less likely to find them in a suit, and more likely to find them sporting rolled up jeans, a buttoned up shirt and some sort of exciting facial hair, but the clearly defined role remains the same.

Perhaps as a result of this long-recognised role, our industry is great at celebrating the socially confident, patting the salesmen on the back and joining them in the pub for a celebratory drink or two. In striking contrast to this, the introverts amongst us are still often seen as unnerving, disinterested or boring. As tech and data continue to take a stronghold on the marketing industry, understanding information provided by clients and collected from media campaigns requires a more diverse set of skills, usually attached to a more diverse set of people and personalities. It is therefore safe to say that companies that only hire and cultivate those who shout the loudest will miss out – in a major way.

Indeed, as the industry continues to evolve, the qualities of introverts become even more precious to us than before. Back in 2014, Eddie Yoon, the founder of Eddie Would Grow argued that the marketing world needed an increase in introverts and would soon start to see it. He argued that as power shifted away from brands and towards the consumer, the ability to listen would become infinitely more valuable. Collecting and listening to consumer feedback and ideas and facilitating deeper discussions with influential consumers will best inform marketing strategies. Ultimately, Yoon argued that ‘in a world where consumers are becoming increasingly proactive, introverted marketers may have the edge’.

Fortuitously for this story, the proof lies in the data:

  • Google searches for ‘Why Am I so awkward’ spiked in 2011 and have remained fairly consistent since
  • A study by Bangor University found that 72% of 18 to 25 year olds feel more comfortable using emojis than words
  • The 10th most watched TED talk of all time is entitled ‘ The Power of Introverts’ and at the time of writing, has over 13 million views. Were you to read some of the comments on this video, you’d see a plethora of individuals who claim to have felt excluded, undervalued and unimpressed by their own workplaces, schools and other communities due to their more introverted nature.

So how do we accommodate introverts in a world that has been reliant on extroverts for so long? How can we develop a workplace that can not only accommodate both introverts and extroverts, but can develop and nurture them both,  in order to best fit our changing environment? The answer, we believe is three-fold.

Self-awareness
Use of psychometric testing in the workplace has been increasing over the past few years with an apparent focus on recruitment. Many of us moving into the industry in the last five to ten years will have taken aptitude tests along with numerical and reasoning tests. We may even have participated in personality tests which assign a colour, animal or personality type to simplify individuals into 4 broad groups. However, OMD believes that personality testing has so much more to offer. Firstly, using tests such Myers-Briggs to identify your own strengths and weaknesses provides clear direction in objective setting, and can help individuals, particularly new graduates, to understand what works best for them in terms of time management, communication and ways of working.

Upskilling Managers
From this, there is a job to be done to upskill our managers. As we look to bring in more diverse types of personalities, managers must get to know their teams and the individuals inside them, allowing for a management style which is adaptable and flexible. Understanding the nuances and differences along with the similarities between team members makes for a much better atmosphere, allowing managers to identify key development areas, recruit more effectively and offer feedback in a way most likely to be acted on.

Client partnering
Thirdly, we must re-think our client servicing approach. Like agencies, our clients are diverse in the way that they work, process information and build relationships. Thinking more carefully about specific clients and matching them with like-minded planners could help us to build stronger relationships. Delivering a 25 page PowerPoint deck full of exciting visuals to a detail oriented client may cause confusion and further questions and whilst it’s not always possible to match each client perfectly, developing an understanding of how individual clients work can help us to foster brilliant client relationships. It may also have an implication for recruitment, particularly when a new client is onboarding.

In a world increasingly focused on data and technology development, agencies must finally move away from the “Mad Men” stereotype and learn to embrace the multitude of skills that come with different types of employees. Recruiting, developing and retaining a mix of introverts and extroverts will help us to remain relevant, understand and embrace different types of personalities and build better teams and ultimately better relationships.

PS: If you’re now wondering if you’re rather in introvert or extrovert, have a little go with this very basic self-assessment test. Of course more detailed and reliable results as well as team mappings require more complex testing systems.

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About Author

Kate Herbert

Kate is Head of People at OMD UK, ensuring the agency’s people become the very best they can be. In the last few years, she has overseen the implementation of You@OMD UK, our brand made up of four key pillars: OMD Academy (our Learning and Development programme), OMD Life (our Health and Wellbeing initiative), Licence to Switch (an initiative that enables anyone in the agency to apply for a secondment within another team) and Giving It Large (enabling the agency to give back to the community).

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