Why the ad industry needs to hire more military veterans

Unlocking vets' talents, energy and focus will be a victory for agencies and their clients

Kevin Eick was a signals intel analyst in the Army for eight years. He spent his time in the intelligence community around the globe, processing and analyzing vast amounts of sensitive information while overseeing trans-continental intelligence reporting. A jack of all trades, Kevin overhauled office systems, trained his juniors on mechanical equipment and mentored countless soldiers as a platoon sergeant.

After leaving the Army, Kevin continued his impressive journey and received his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Columbia University. For all these reasons and more, I hired him as my first employee. But this is less about bragging and more about wondering — wondering why there seems a reluctance to hire military veterans.

After all, it is not a giant leap from strategizing and analyzing intel to strategizing and analyzing markets for clients. There are more than 200,000 vets transitioning from the service each year. Think about it. That’s a huge talent pool full of diversity, talent and discipline. But the advertising industry has been slow, if not reluctant, to recognize the value of hiring military veterans.

Let’s take a look at the facts: In 2013 alone, nearly 170,000 veterans received benefits toward undergraduate and graduate education. Nearly a third were focused on degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. So we are talking about a talent base that is motivated, educated and tech-focused.

Though the large advertising agency holding companies have attempted to create traction in hiring vets, few formal programs take advantage of the vets’ skill sets in this industry. Fewer agencies actually hire them. And that’s truly a shame.

Advertising is a challenging, rewarding industry that requires a diversity of skills combined with grace under pressure. Unlocking the talents, energy and focus that veterans possess will not only be a victory for agencies, but more importantly for their clients.

I’d like to challenge other agency leaders to look toward hiring veterans. Find your Kevin. The reality is veterans have made a difference for our country — and they will make a difference for your agency, too.

Brian Hollyfield is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Ayni Brigade. 

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