The three keys to brand success: diversity, evolution and connection

by Saniya More

April 5, 2018

William Manfredi, executive vice president and global talent manager for Young & Rubicam, explains the recruiting process and what students can do to stand out in the advertising industry

A photo of William Manfredi
William Manfredi Saniya More

One of the worst mistakes university students make, according to William Manfredi, is not being involved from the very beginning.

“Looking at your résumé and figuring out what makes you stand out is super important. I look at the résumé as something you grow and nurture and add to. Freshman year is when you should start preparing yourself, rather than in your junior or senior year,” Manfredi says.

Manfredi is the head of human resources at Young & Rubicam (Y&R), a global advertising agency based in New York City. He visited the Newhouse School to speak with advertising classes about careers in advertising and how to be competitive in the hunt for a job. We sat down with Manfredi to find out more.

Tell us a little bit about Y&R and your role.

Y&R is a traditional brand agency that’s really noted for its strategy. Our mission is to drive brands and help them grow. My role is to handle all of human resources worldwide. I’m involved in senior hires. I also work with countries having issues with employment relations and so forth. I help establish relationships with universities so we can bring talent in.

Y&R is a global company—what are the benefits of that, especially in this day and age? Has that affected how you recruit and hire people?

Definitely. I can give you a personal example. My career was essentially out of New York, working for IBM. When I was with them, I had the opportunity to work and live in Japan for four years. It really changed my perspective of the business. You think about companies that are global, but they’re managed from a center that doesn’t have any insight [into] what’s going on globally. The advantage of being global is trying to bring people in that have a global perspective. When I went to Japan and came back, it changed my whole outlook. We’re trying to take students for a three- to four-month apprenticeship program while they’re still in school, and send them overseas to work. We need to become more international and understand how brands work in different parts of the world, as well as modifying the brands to work in a local market while still protecting the brand’s values and what it stands for.

Are there any special skills you look for when you are hiring students?

It’s not so much about academics, especially when you come out of a great school like Newhouse. It’s more about your work experience. Besides this, we look for people who are inquisitive, who keep up to date with current affairs and who are able to fit in anywhere. We think about whether we can make an investment in the people we hire.

In what ways does the China Z partnership with Newhouse contribute to Y&R’s mission and goals? It’s clear how the program benefits the students, but how does it benefit the company?

What I love about SU is the flexibility the school has to create programs. [It also has] a large Asian population. In China, the [advertising] industry has a problem—every year, 60 percent of people are leaving and pursue other opportunities outside the country. Because of this, I wanted to figure out how to keep employees in the country. This was what led to the China Z program. The basic idea is to take a few of the best students here, train them in one of the U.S. locations for a few months and then send them to China. After getting the idea approved on all ends, we chose seven [Newhouse] students and [trained them] with our summer interns at our Kansas office. Each student was assigned a mentor from the China office as well. The students were exposed to different areas of the company and became familiar with everything. They were then sent back to China.

From the company point of view, the benefit of the program was that we brought in students [into both our U.S. and China offices] that brought in the culture of the company. They came in with six months of intense learning and had a global sense, too. After the success of the program, the company is definitely looking to expand it to other parts of the world.

What do you think makes a brand desirable and appealing to its audience?

A brand needs to evolve. I always say that you don’t want to be captivated by heritage, you want to leverage heritage. One of the challenges that we have as an industry is ensuring that brands understand the change management they have to go through.

What are some mistakes brands make?

Becoming complacent in your industry is a death sentence.

What are some lessons you have picked up throughout your career?

The importance of being a good listener, being inquisitive and always trying to stay current.

Saniya More is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.