One of the more innovative uses of social media to revitalise an ailing brand was the YouTube campaign for Old Spice. 

The videos, created by Wieden & Kennedy, were widely acclaimed and incredibly popular, accounting for the vast majority of the 307m views accumulated on the Old Spice YouTube channel.

As such, you might think that W&K has a deep understanding of social media, and what makes audiences tick.

It is therefore quite a struggle to make sense of its latest job ad, for a ‘Social Strategist’, to work on the Old Spice account.

Where to start? How about where the job ad starts…

Do you regularly surf the Web?

Can you do Facebook?

Does the prospect of a more digital future get you jazzed?

W+K believes that the World Wide Web has the potential to go mainstream.

Perhaps W&K is right… maybe this internet lark might one day reach the masses.

It then invites applicants to complete one or more of 10 challenges, which escalate quickly from the sublime to the ridiculous. 

Each challenge requires its own case study (“simply participating in a challenge without submitting a case study will not constitute an entry”). I guess that’s where the strategy bit comes into play, since the challenges themselves have very little to do with strategy, or best practice for that matter. Many will encourage those prone to spamming to spam, and a number can be easily achieved by gaming the system (by buying followers, for example).

The full set of challenges can be found here. Here, in brief, is my take on them…

Challenge #1 is to create a Pinterest board “dedicated to the sport of inline speed skating”. Relatively straightforward.

Challenge #2 is about gaming Reddit.

Challenge #3 requires the applicant to undertake “original, in-depth analysis” of a social media ecosystem and upload it to Slideshare. 

Challenge #4 is about generating lots of new Facebook fans for your Mum and Dad. Potentially tricky, especially if – like lots of perfectly sane parents - they’re not on Facebook. Or worse.

Challenge #5 is about gaming Twitter. Given that you can buy thousands of followers for a few dollars this is utterly ridiculous.

Challenge #6 is about gaming YouTube (create and upload a YouTube video that generates the most views).

Challenge #7 requires applicants to “get recommendations on LinkedIn from at least three other people trying to get this job”. All kinds of weird, that one.

Challenge #8 is about gaming

Challenge #9 is probably the most sublime of the lot, depending on the state of your armpits.

Challenge #10 is about answering a specific question on Quora.

By my reckoning this is a week’s work, possibly two, if you wanted to do them all (which is not compulsory, as has been pointed out to me in the comments). While I’m all for making people jump through hoops to show the skills and desire required to be hired, I think this is overkill, and somewhat misguided if applicants start to game the various systems to win. 

I'd love to know how many people complete their applications in full...

It's also interesting to contrast this job ad with a W&K presentation which takes a somewhat contrarian view on all things social.

What do you think? 

Chris Lake

Published 1 November, 2012 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (7)

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Really, Chris? Did you read the job ad at all or just skim it? The stuff in the ad about the internet is obviously tongue-in-cheek, just like the rest of the ad.

"The official rules can be found here. They’re very boring because they were written by a lawyer, and lawyers are boring, but you should read the rules anyways."

The ad also states that you only have to submit "one or more" of the challenges below, not a "series of challenges" as you state in your article. Also, IF YOU READ the ad, it makes a point that the applicant must also tell them what they did and why it was successful. I'm sure "gaming" systems and purchasing Twitter followers will not be looked upon favorably (and let's face it, it's easy to tell when this has been done.)

Next time read the whole job ad before forming your opinion.

over 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Bryce - Hands up. I read the job ad, the rules, and the job description, but must have skim read the bit about completing 'one or more challenges'. I've amended the article slightly to reflect that, so thanks for the pointer.

As to how the challenges are judged, who knows if purchasing Twitter followers would be frowned upon? In agencyland I know that sometimes you do whatever the client requests, and if 'get 100k views on YouTube' is a campaign goal, then that's something that has to happen, especially if revenue is dependent on it. Some agencies will do whatever it takes to achieve these sorts of goals.

But you're right, clearly the applicants who get the numbers in an ethical way will stand out over those who buy their way to the top. Assuming that they make the cut in the first place.

over 5 years ago


Angela Hill | Incitrio, creative solutions for global brands

Interesting article. Not at all how I would go about advertising for a social strategist. If you can't demonstrate past success, why would I even consider hiring you?

Who cares if you can game Twitter for this one test? I'm more interested in how you leveraged major social platforms (at your last job), as part of an integrated campaign.

And, what about the numbers??? I care WAY more about exactly how much revenue was generated, as a result of our campaign work for the client, than whether views were bought or earned on YouTube. It's about the results and what's best for the client, not the tactics.

From my point of view, the priorities for any decent agency hiring a strong social strategist should be: 1. ethics, 2. results, 3. tactics.

over 5 years ago


Robert Rowand

At some point in the not too distant future, I think there will be regulation surrounding these practices and employers will have to more upfront about their true intentions during the hiring process.

For now, Wieden & Kennedy is taking full advantage of its campaign success by bellying up to the "all-you-can-eat" buffet that is the art and science of stealing ideas from talented candidates.

Prospective job seekers forget that the way agencies persist is by finding and placing as many interns towards the bottom while at the same time limiting the amount of positions at the top.

This used to work for playing nice, paying little and borrowing ideas, but with a total lack of hiring and lack of budget these days, the next best solution is to put out a job query like this and just steal the great ideas from the start.

Granted this could be for a real job, but I'd make a bet the person hired is either let go one day shy of their 3 month mark, or they walk out on their own as a matter of principle.

By the way, I love W+K I'm just joking.

over 5 years ago

Lazar Dzamic

Lazar Dzamic, Ex-Planning Director of Kitcatt Nohr Digitas at On garden leave

Be careful, it is probably a stunt. They are much more socially clever and in the loop than the ad implies; the job ad just may be an ad - but not for what we think... Hope all will be revealed soon.

over 5 years ago

Philip Storey

Philip Storey, Founder & Principal Consultant at Enchant Agency

Interesting article Chris.

There are positives for both the candidate and the employer with this approach to filling this role. They're clearly looking for someone that's got the creative edge, who's not afraid of taking on the impossible, head on. They obviously don't expect someone to complete all of the challenges, and with the more ridiculous ones, it will certainly be interesting to see what happens.

Also, none of the work can be taken by W&K, so that's good - they're not trying to get candidates to contribute to something they're working on. They simply want to see what you've got.

Regarding the time effort, I've never been interviewed and not had to/been expected/taken it upon myself to spend a week or so preparing something for it, such as a presentation, so I don't see why that's an issue. It's completely normal.

over 5 years ago


Clive Andrews

The W+K tongue is firmly in cheek here, surely.

My bet will be that the successful applicant will be someone that understands this, plays along with the joke and delivers a cracking punchline, rather than taking at face value what is clearly some kind of parody.

I doubt that anyone taking this too literally is the kind of person W+K are seeking.

over 5 years ago

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