The 'Mother' of all talent drives

Katie Mackay, Partner at Mother, on the agency’s relentless pursuit for attracting the brightest talent.

Let’s start with an admission: we’re not perfect. In terms of getting the best talent into Mother - we’re good, but still have a long way to go. You can never have enough smart people in an agency, and it’s a relentless job (in a good way).

Mother was founded on principles that set us apart. We wanted to put creativity at the heart of our business, not be a business that happens to ‘do’ creativity. On their very first day of Mother, our founding partners gathered to work around a kitchen table. They shared the washing-up and this focus on team bred an egalitarian spirit that rings even louder today. We still all sit around one (admittedly much larger) table.

This is just part of our attitude, which is a more powerful driver than a set of formal quotas in getting a diverse range of creative minds into the Biscuit Building. Sure, we take part in the IPA benchmarking but it doesn’t become our North Star, we’re informed but not driven by the numbers. Our want to reflect the society we serve is more emotional and, it has to be said, practical. We find that a range of points of view gives you a more rounded set of ideas – it really is that simple.

There are other actions that we’ve naturally taken, not designed to break down barriers that have helped make us more approachable. At the heart is a family approach to the people who make Mother - simple things like sitting at that one table or eating lunch together every day and our more collaborative and involved way of working. These tend to appeal to a certain mindset; the mind that thinks more creatively.

We’re not for everyone. Some don’t like our fine balance between excellence and eccentricity but in terms of recruitment, our approach, culture and the resulting behaviours attract those that do, almost like a moth to a flame… without the painful death part. Our brand is pretty well-known and we’re very diligent about how we’re perceived. It sounds obvious but our brand does a lot of the hard lifting to attract the best talent and mindset.

As we all know, opening up our industry is a long and arduous process. I think/hope that we’re just at the start of that journey. We all have a long way to go together. At Mother we’re doing the things we can to inspire the groups that should be front and centre of the creative professions. Our runners scheme brings those who may have been overlooked in the past into creativity. We recruit broad and wide - usually from customer service roles - to keep the agency talent pool fresh.

Our creative teams each year do more book crits for ad students than Richard and Judy get through in a lifetime. But, we’re ever-conscious that we live in a two speed borough, so have a stream of college students in to talk and learn with our team because even just to hear what advertising is and let them know that they can get involved is an important step.

There’s our CV workshops for school leavers - it can take just 10 minutes over a KFC to help focus their energy and passion onto paper. We’ve produced a website and booklet for younger pupils at schools that helps to do a bit more demystifying. It’s also why we’re delighted to be taking part in Advertising Unlocked, helping us reach an even broader audience – both through the programme and with our local university Queen Mary’s.

So, with our simple admission, I’m hoping that more of us will stand up and say that there is a lot more to do. We can never, ever relent as an industry in getting the brightest minds working on the fortunes of brands. If we don’t all push for change, we’ll start to become irrelevant in the minds of those we need to inspire.

Katie Mackay is a Partner at Mother

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Last updated 21 January 2022