Marketing campaigns to lure back the best

A leading group aims to tempt top recruits to the industry by offering graduate fellowships, says Helen Jones

"The brightest and the best are going into management consultancy or banking, not marketing," says Eric Salama, director of strategy for WPP, the world's leading marketing services group.

In an attempt to redress the balance, WPP is this week launching the WPP Fellowship. This will enable five graduates to spend three years with the group: at the Henley Centre, at J Walter Thompson, the advertising agency, and at Hill & Knowlton, the public relations company, on a salary of up to pounds 20,000 a year and a permanent job at the end. Apart from consultancy, advertising and PR, recruits may work in some of WPP's other companies which take in design, research, public affairs and direct marketing.

Mr Salama says the fellowships will not detract from existing graduate recruitment schemes within WPP such as that run by JWT, but will offer a breadth of experience, whereas the JWT scheme offers in-depth training in the business of advertising. He says this broader training is necessary because "clients are coming to us with problems that don't need a single- discipline solution such as advertising or PR - they need both".

Last year, the group began a pilot scheme recruiting solely from Cambridge University. The successful applicants take up their places in September. This year, however, the scheme is open to all UK graduates; a similar programme will be run in the US for graduates with MBAs. WPP will be doing presentations at Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Nottingham and London over the next few months and will set up information kiosks at other universities. Successful candidates will take up their places in September 1996.

Mr Salama says he does not know how many applications the fellowships will attract - last year the JWT graduate scheme received 1,500 applications for 11 places - but competition is expected to be intense: "All the candidates for the pilot scheme were good, but we expect higher quality applications this year. Cambridge does not have a monopoly on bright people and we are casting the net wider."

The successful candidates will have to meet demanding standards. A good degree is essential, although Mr Salama says: "It is about attitude rather than class of degree. It will not necessarily be dependent on possessing a First - a lot of very bright people didn't get a First."

Age, gender and background are irrelevant, says WPP, but it is seeking people who are committed, intellectually curious, lateral thinkers and who can take a rigorous and creative approach to problem solving. Languages would be useful and applicants who have lived or worked abroad would be particularly welcome, because WPP operates across 77 countries. There will be opportunities to work abroad during the fellowship and afterwards.

In return, those who are successful can expect in-depth training across three different businesses and will have the opportunity to work with some of WPP's clients, including National Westminster Bank and Guinness. They will work in a creative, client management or planning role before taking up management responsibilities.

Mr Salama says there is no obligation for recruits to stay with WPP at the end of the fellowship: "If either side is unhappy, that is that. But we would be very disappointed if, after three years' investment, someone elected to leave. There are great opportunities within the group."

Written applications should be sent to: WPP Group Plc, 27 Farm Street, London WIX 6RD (0171-408 2204).

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