The best way to get a foot in a US advertising agency's door is to speak with an English accent, while UK firms prefer humanities graduates, according to new research, writes Natasha Gilbert.
Chris Hackley, senior lecturer in marketing at Birmingham University, found that New York-based agencies regarded having an English accent as an asset when pitching for business because clients assumed this implied cleverness.
Dr Hackley said: "English planning directors of top US agencies feel that their accent is important because clients associate it with cleverness and their job is to sound clever."
Dr Hackley also said that US agencies placed greater emphasis on statistical testing in creative research and looked for candidates who were confident with numbers or were business minded.
By contrast, UK agencies were more likely to use interpretive research, such as anthropology and ethnography, to understand consumers, he said. Top London agencies often hired humanities graduates for these roles because they were more likely to have the linguistic and interpretive skills the UK approach demanded.
"UK agencies have moved away from mass marketing towards lifestyle marketing. This has meant that advertisers need people who can creatively interpret qualitative data to generate insights into consumer behaviour. Humanities graduates have these skills," he said.
Phil Teer, planning director of St Luke's advertising agency in London, told The THES : "The first thing St Luke's looks for in a graduate is curiosity about problem-solving, about culture and about people."
But he said that because the industry was in a protracted downturn, he suspected there would be "more of an interest than usual in people with hard skills like business and statistics. This is because proof of effectiveness becomes more important when clients are feeling risk-averse".
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