Ye Olde Recruitment Advertising

Ye Olde Recruitment Advertising


We loved this so much, we just had to share it! Before the days of employer branding, EVPs, career websites and programmatic, it was ALL about the S.C.C (that’s a single column centimetre for those not in the know), and printed support collateral. How things have changed. Tell us more Ness… (Thanks for letting us lift it from your Facebook feed Stafford Long and Vannessa Hare!)

Ness, thank you for joining us today. Many of us are already well aware you are fountain of knowledge, but for those who don’t know – how long have you in the world of recruitment marketing?

31 years!! I joined a small rec ad agency called Rada Recruitment in November 1987 – initially as secretary to the Chairman and team of account handlers but over time started getting involved in the admin side.

There must have been some serious changes since the start of your career! Tell us a bit more about what your working environment was like in the very early years and what it was like in many offices in the 1980s.

Office life was very different back in 1987 – for a start people were still allowed to smoke - almost inconceivable these days! All communication was by phone, fax or courier. Even I find it hard to imagine how we managed without the internet or e-mail but we did, perfectly well. As I was initially the team secretary, I was one of the only people in the office with a computer on my desk – well actually it was a ‘Word processor’ because that was about all it could do. Amusingly it was called a “Wang”.

Before the introduction of the internet, what was the process for getting a recruitment ad up and what were your advertising options for clients?

All advertising was in print media - national, local or trade/professional press. Adverts were either paper-set or trade set. Paper-set meant that we would send the advert wording and style sheets marked up to show the publication how we wanted everything set out on the page. As we weren’t typesetting the advert, we had to estimate the size of the advert by comparing with previous adverts or ask production to work out the size using a special ruler! Paper set adverts could be full display, semi display or lineage. For display ads, the paper would fax proofs to us to check and make any changes. For trade-set adverts, the agency would typeset the advert and supply final camera-ready artwork – called a bromide or PMT (photomechanical transfer) – to the publication. As you can imagine, there was a LOT of paperwork lying around on desks!!

We’re really used to firing things back and forth to clients on email – before the internet how did you communicate with clients and the media?

Looking back now, it all seems very labour intensive! People would spend a lot of the day on the phone talking to clients and media, discussing campaigns and media options – noise levels were definitely higher than today but there was a great buzz in the office. People weren’t glued to their computer screens as they are these days and it was somehow more sociable with the bosses coming around to chat to colleagues on a daily basis. Adverts had to be faxed, sent by courier, post (if time allowed) or Ad Doc (which was an overnight document exchange service, used extensively by the advertising and legal sectors). During the 90s I worked for a large agency called Austin Knight which had its own dispatch department. The advertising teams would put all artwork in post trays and the guys from dispatch would go around the building several times a day to collect it. If it was urgent, we’d have to request a courier and take it down to dispatch.

How did this change the process for getting a recruitment ad up?

Because all advertising was in print, we worked to longer lead lines and deadlines were pretty much set in stone. We simply couldn’t accept late adverts after the deadline because the publication had most likely gone to print!! This meant that our working days/weeks were far more structured than they are today as clients were given deadlines by which time, they had to send all requests to us to appear in the following week’s press. Friday and Monday were by far the most hectic days. On Friday we’d be setting up jobs, getting adverts typed up, and into production for typesetting. Mondays would be manic with proofs back from production, checking and faxing proofs to clients. We’d have to either type or hand write fax cover sheets confirming media, insertion date, size, cost and approval deadlines. There would often be a queue at the fax machine bank with account handlers all jostling to send their faxes!! Once the deadlines for that week had passed, usually on a Tuesday afternoon, you had a breathing space to close down jobs, do filing etc before the ads started coming in again on Thursday!

Can you remember a time in your career where you seriously mucked up?

Sorry to disappoint but not really, nothing major. I'm glad to say I didn’t have many write-offs but there might have been one, in about 2003, for about £750!! The only other thing I can remember was that once the wrong telephone number appeared in a print advert, so some poor unsuspecting member of the public was being inundated with calls from applicants – we sent them a bunch of flowers with an apology!!

Moving onto the bigger picture – what do you think the biggest change(s) to our industry has been since you’ve started your career?

By far the internet and email. We started using email internally about 1995 – I remember thinking what a novelty it was to email telephone messages to colleagues instead of having to stick a post-it on their desk! Another major change in the mid 90s was the introduction of ISDN and ADS which meant production could send artwork electronically. A couple of years later websites such as Monster and Career Builder started having an impact on the world of recruitment and in 2000 niche job boards started popping up. In about 2000 I remember starting to use PDF proofs and the use of fax machines started to decline. I feel I was lucky to have experienced working in the industry both pre and post internet. The 80s was a really fun time – lots of new business wins, champagne, long lunches and some legendary media parties!! The 90s was a time of major change with the arrival of the internet and email which has drastically changed the way we work – mostly for the best but I must admit I often look back at the old days with some degree of nostalgia!

And lastly Ness, what do you think the future holds for our industry?

Continual decline of print and classified advertising and increase in targeting and programmatic advertising. We’re now living in a world where recruitment advertising messages now target the candidate rather than just the candidate finding the advertising. This changes the direction of our industry once again, and it becomes more important than ever that employers have a strong employer brand and think strategically about their recruitment marketing approach.

Photos: Vanessa Hare/Stafford Long


Thursday, 29 November 2018

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(Showing 1 - 11 of 11)

Gill Rock Date: Nov 29, 2018

Vanessa I remember those days with loads of fondness....

Linda Rajan Date: Nov 29, 2018

Gill, I remember having to bring you the faxed adverts so you could type them up before they went to the production team

brad williams Date: Nov 30, 2018

Vanessa you forgot to mention that once you took your work into Production on Friday around 5.15ish (Client Service would then go out on the lash), it was amazing how all the work was completed for 9am on Monday morning! That's because Production worked almost every Saturday and quite a few Sundays. I am really glad that you didn't mention going into Production could be a terrifying experience! That is an urban myth never to be believed, anyone from a Production team in our industry would confirm that . . . they were brilliant days with some amazing characters.

brin mcardle Date: Nov 30, 2018

Oh..what happy happy days...i was never scared of production...they looked after me

paul wade Date: Nov 30, 2018

As a publisher I remember awaiting the Austin Knight courier and his packages on a Friday afternoon with anticipation...

Vanessa Hare Date: Dec 4, 2018

Brad - I must admit to being just a little apprehensive before venturing into production on a Friday evening with my 15 Hounslow and Hillingdon ads!! You all did a fantastic job and yes my proofs were always ready for me on a Monday morning! They were fun times!

Sonia Wellesley Date: Dec 5, 2018

Wow - that's taken me right back - thank you for the memories Vanessa.

neil roberts Date: Dec 6, 2018

Oh how I loved those days - Sonia - we used to close bookings during the day and tally space to make sure we hadn't burst on the Guardian - and relay the numbers to Keith and Viv in Manchester. The worst result was "you've burst - going up?" or - "my pages aren't elastic - we are full" Friday was always manic with Media & Education Guardian to close, and waiting for late artwork from AK, Scott Edgar and Bartletts. Grand days and so much fun

Mary Beardmore Date: Dec 13, 2018

Hi Vanessa... you certainly bought back a whole host of memories!

Rachel Sykes Date: Dec 14, 2018

I remember once getting a call from our contact at the Evening Standard, chasing for artwork. I was pretty sure I'd already sent it. As I was getting another lot sorted, I had another call. Turned out the media order, complete with the PMT stapled to it, had fallen out of the envelope into her handbag! Good old days with Scott Edgar.

Vanessa Hare Date: Jan 18, 2019

Mary - great to hear from you! I do look back at our time in Mike's team at AK Soho Square with fondness. Remember working on RAS and Pam at the Isle of Wight? I will always remember you having an argument with her over a 1p invoice query. Lol, those were the days!!

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