Business_news 13 top advertising headhunters to know right now


Zimmerman Advertising; SyndicateBleu; Jenna Garofalo; Grace Blue; Yuqing Liu/Business Insider

  • Big advertising agencies have shed employees, but some smaller independents and in-house brand teams are still hiring.
  • As clients prioritize diversity and inclusion, headhunters are looking beyond “cookie-cutter” candidates with traditional portfolios or experience.
  • To find work again, laid-off ad pros will have to reinvent themselves, learn new skills, and diversify, recruiters say.
  • Here’s business Insider’s first list of 13 top headhunters in the advertising industry.
  • Visit business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit consumer spending, it also walloped advertising budgets. Agencies, many owned by holding companies,slashedstaff. As business Insider hasreported, the cuts have upended the industry.

Still, some headhunters say their clients are hiring. Small and midsize agencies, often leaner and nimbler, continue to grow. Brands needing to pivot post-pandemic are relying on in-house marketing teams and agency partners. And ad pros who know how to position brands to a stuck-at-home audience are in high demand.

Business Insider identified 13 leading headhunters in advertising and marketing communications, considering factors like size, longevity, and clients. They range from sole proprietors to international search firms, along with two in-house talent officers. While their views on the market diverge, they agree that the pandemic,diversity needs, and remote workhave changed advertising— and search — forever.

“Agencies are raising the bar. They want specific experiences, styles of work, and levels of talent,” said Barbara Tejada, the owner of New York’s Mighty Recruiting.

Here are 13 advertising recruiters to know right now, in alphabetical order by last name.

Business_news Diane Domeyer, executive director, The Creative Group

The Creative Group

As part of the recruiting behemoth Robert half, The Creative Group has an advantage in its scale — its onsite staff in 40 cities is backed by its parent’s 300-plus locations.

Launched in 1999, it’s also one of the oldest firms in the space, with deep relationships and experience through business cycles.

“What’s changed over the years, aside from a jump to 11.5% unemployment, is the transition to virtual workplaces,” said Diane Domeyer, the executive director. “Hiring and onboarding are happening remotely. Employers are lifting geographic boundaries to find top talent. That will be a permanent shift.”

Despite the fallout from the pandemic, Domeyer remains optimistic about the industry. “There may be more people looking, but the future’s very bright when you think about what organizations have to do to communicate with and engage their customers,” she said.

Business_news Jenna Garofalo, independent

Jenna Garofalo

After years in creative recruitment in-house at JWT, 360i, and Anomaly, Jenna Garofalo went solo in 2019, winning clients like Droga5, We Are Social, and Peloton.

“Creative’s my sweet spot, from interns to chief creative officers,” she said. “When I started, it was ‘stay in your lane,’ whether you write or design. Now, grads also know how to code or how to animate. And you have to put that lens on candidates: What other skill sets can you bring to the table?”

Diversity has also altered searches themselves.

“Everyone’s open to more than the usual cookie-cutter people,” she said. “It’s not just about awards they won or which school they went to. It’s about nontraditional thinkers with different experiences. You find people not everyone else is looking for.”

Business_news Manuela Guidi, founder, Manuela Guidi LLC

Manuela Guidi LLC

An advertising recruiter since 1996, Manuela Guidi hires for every kind of need but specializes in finding creatives like art directors, writers, and designers. Guidi, based in Chicago, handles searches worldwide, including in China and Russia.

“When the firm was born, it was much more agency-slanted,” she said. “Now, brands are hiring more actively to create in-house departments.”

Despite a talent glut, “candidates are as discerning as employers right now,” she said. “More than ever, they want to know about a company’s culture and commitment to issues. It’s been a wake-up call.”

A former television executive, Guidi said she still sees new business coming around. “There’s been a flattening of hiring, but not a standstill,” she said.

Business_news Jay Haines, founder, Grace Blue

Grace Blue

With 20 headhunters in the US and 30 more elsewhere in the world, Grace Blue describes itself as the largest independent executive search firm in marketing and communications. Worldwide, it handles 140 C-level searches every year, with an emphasis on seniority, said Jay Haines, who founded Grace Blue in 2006.

Clients are split between agencies and brands — Amazon, Ogilvy, and Spotify among them — and many are back to hiring again, Haines said.

“There’s a need for hires who can drive growth beyond brick-and-mortar,” Haines said. “There’s growth in anything that speaks to activities or products done from home. And there’s a big uptick in needs from independent agencies. They’re more agile, and they’re seeing this as a time to scale.”

Business_news Ashley Jahn, cofounder and creative recruiter, Creative Search Consultants

Creative Search Consultants

Half of a rare father-daughter act in creative recruiting, Ashley Jahn founded Creative Search Consultants with her father, Stephen, in 2001.

“We’ve had clients that long,” she said. “Your success in this business is measured on the companies you work for, who you represent, and for how long.”

Jahn’s roster includes Disney, The Martin Agency, 72andSunny, and Facebook. She said that while the holding companies’ performance was mixed, smaller, independent agencies were growing exponentially, and internal agencies were unscathed.

Creatives can no longer specialize in a single area as companies look for people with holistic skill sets, Jahn said. But she said that while the pandemic had created a buyer’s market for talent, with turnover constant in advertising, “everyone’s looking for the latest, greatest, hottest, newest person — a lot of opportunity and growth comes from moments like this.”

Business_news Sally Jones, founder, Tangerine


Sally Jones and her team of nine work with clients like the US Tennis Association, Foursquare, Daily Harvest, and WeTransfer to build creative teams.

“We’re very considered about who we work with. We’d rather have 20 roles with two clients than two roles with 20 clients,” said Jones, who founded the all-women firm in 2002.

Jones said Tangerine has also prioritized diversity for years, long before it became a matter of urgency. “Before we introduce candidates, we’re always conscious of how the pool looks and that we’ve vetted talent that’s both diverse and creative,” she said.

She said that while the core of Tangerine’s work hadn’t changed through the pandemic, searches are harder because requests are getting much more specific.

“Everybody’s asking for ‘T-shaped’ talent — a creative who’s a designer by trade, or a designer who knows production,” Jones said.

Business_news Dany Lennon, founder and CEO, The Creative Register


One ad trade called The Creative Register “the industry’s most influential talent manager and recruiting company.” But its founder, Dany Lennon, prefers to call herself “a casting director for business stories.”

“A producer might say they want Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts,” she said, “but the casting director knows you won’t get them without an amazing supporting cast.”

Top-tier creative hires are New York-based Lennon’s bread and butter, but she said she’s a big believer in people who are hybrids. “You can have a brilliant creative mind on the business side,” she said.

The pandemic, she said, has accelerated the industry culling, and while categories like travel and lifestyle have suffered, gaming, tech, and startups are booming.

Diversity concerns have also changed the search process. “If you’re a white male, it’s going to be harder for you at this time,” she said.

Business_news Amie Miller, chief talent officer, TBWA Worldwide


A creative powerhouse and awards magnet with clients like Apple, Nissan, and PepsiCo, Omnicom’s TBWA employs 11,300 people across 275 offices in 95 countries. The agency’s New York office, TBWAChiatDay, has about 50 open positions, especially in healthcare and automotive.

As it reenters growth mode, the conversation has shifted to what kinds of people and qualities it’s looking for, and it’s a great time for people to reevaluate themselves as companies change what they’re looking for, said Amie Miller, the global agency’s New York-based chief talent officer.

“Diversity is a huge priority, and it’s a new working environment. Is someone a connector?” she said. “Do they bring nimbleness and ingenuity? We talk a lot about hiring on potential and attitude.”

Business_news Diana Qasabian, managing director, SyndicateBleu


Diana Qasabian, the managing director of SyndicateBleu, a Los Angeles-based arm of the recruiting giant Career Group Companies, said that in a typical year, SyndicateBleu handles “hundreds” of placements for studios, ad agencies, and design firms, and hiring remains active.

“Brands are pivoting and need to promote themselves,” she said. “But the trend now is more freelance or temp-to-hire. Clients are getting a little more conservative. And they want more of a chemistry check before they commit.”

As work has gone remote, Qasabian has seen high demand to build virtual teams for clients.

For the job hunter, flexibility is key in advertising and creative fields, and skills are transferable, Qasabian said.

“If you were a fashion copywriter, you can write for beauty or lifestyle,” she said. “If you worked on car accounts, you can work for an automotive brand.”

Business_news Eli Rodriguez, director of human resources and talent, Zimmerman Advertising

Zimmerman Advertising

Clients like McDonald’s, AutoNation, and Kay Jewelers have made Fort Lauderdale-based Zimmerman a leading advertising agency specializing in retail brands.

Owned by Omnicom, the firm faced layoffs and furloughs in April because of the pandemic. But Zimmerman’s still busy managing gigantic pivots for its roster of brands, said Eli Rodriguez, the director of human resources and talent.

“We’re moving clients from traditional media plans to programmatic digital, social, and paid search, so our hiring needs have increased in that space,” he said. “Our top needs are anything in digital media — search, video, paid, organic — and retail technologies like analytics, data, UX, UI.”

The biggest change is that it’s looking for people across the country, Rodriguez said. “We’ve always moved people to South Florida,” he said. “Now that we’re all working remotely, you could be anywhere.”

Business_news Tony Stanol, president, Global Recruiters of Sarasota

Global Recruiters of Sarasota

Tony Stanol ran global accounts for agencies like BBDO, FCB, and JWT for more than 20 years before switching careers at age 50. A longtime Ad Age columnist, Stanol averages 10 placements annually.

“My breadth of experience is my advantage as a recruiter,” said Stanol, whose Florida firm is part of the 240-office Global Recruiters Network. “I know what I’m talking about in the industry.”

Agencies make up most of his client base, and despite widespread carnage among agencies, he’s having a better year than last thanks to strong pharma advertising and demand for strategic planners and digital strategists, he said.

Business_news Gilly Taylor, founder, Gilly & Co.

Gilly & Co.

Now in the third decade with her Los Angeles boutique consultancy, Gilly Taylor’s worked with young creatives who’ve become CMOs, small agencies that have become huge agencies, and startup brands that are now giants.

“We’re very much relationship-bound,” said Taylor, who worked at agencies in London and LA before launching the firm. “I’ve never had an issue where someone hasn’t worked out.”

Along with growing freelance demands from clients, the biggest change she’s seen has been in hiring, she said.

“It’s now a serious ask, and a couple of larger agencies will only hire diverse candidates,” she said. “There’s more flexibility in that someone doesn’t always have to come from an agency background.”

Business_news Barbara Tejada, owner/recruiter, Mighty Recruiting

Mighty Recruiting

While her business launched with big-agency clients, smaller independents have been faring well during the pandemic and taking up more of Barbara Tejada’s time these days.

But with tons of candidates, said Tejada, a longtime internal recruiter who founded Mighty Recruiting in 2013, “agencies are raising the bar — they want specific experiences, styles of work, and levels of talent.”

Diversity needs have also shifted her searches, but Tejada said agencies weren’t always following through.

“Everyone can say they want diversity, and that’s great. But they’re still passing on the diverse books,” she said. “I’ve decided I’m not presenting lists of just white men anymore. The industry has to walk the walk.”

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