I'm ashamed to admit that I, and at one point my fiance, have both been fooled by Ivins Group, or Matlin Marketing, or Red Zone Advertising, or whatever they change their name to after more bad PR calls them out. Whoever they are by the time you read this, I hope you'll take my advice and stay away. This is my first ripoff report, and I wish to use it to walk you through the mistakes I made and strange things I noticed about this place.
This company (or companies) float around monster and craigslist with great career postings about "entry level sports marketing" or something similar with a salary range somewhere around $32,000 - $40,000. Pretty good for entry level in Pittsburgh. So, you'll read the posting and be invited to visit their site. There's the first mistake:
As you visit the website take careful notice of what you see, and more importantly what is missing. For example, Red Zone Advertising (redzoneadvertising.com) is the first "advertising agency" I've ever seen that chooses not to show the brands they work for or their creative work. Instead, when you select the Client tab on the site, you'll see a bunch of cheesy stock images of so-called event marketing...which is not advertising by the way. No brands are featured, no clients are featured, and the explanation of services is vague at best. In fact, I recommend you open up the site in a separate window and put yourself in the mindset of a prospective client. You'll find a dozen places where you can apply for one of the 4 management positions, but there is no place for a potential new business opportunity to connect with this company. Pretty odd for a so-called advertising agency to avoid any client contact whatsoever via their corporate website...
Well, if you didn't notice the oddities of the website at first, don't feel bad. Many others before you, myself included, have been fooled enough to apply and go to the next step - the first interview. At first you'll get a phone call from a young professional appointment setter. Everything will seem fine and normal, and you'll be given the address or directions from a local landmark. However, things start to get weird when you actually arrive for said interview:
Once again, take careful notice of what you see and do not see. I attended an interview with Red Zone/Ivins Group, whose office was apparently a cheap motel room or a storage closet two weeks before my interview. The furniture looked shotty and cheap - nothing looked very permanent. Even the lousy sports posters in their plastic frames couldn't help the place. And for some reason there were 4 other people there at the same time for a job interview. Then I noticed that the administrative assistant was constantly making phone calls, which is pretty normal in a professional office setting...or so I thought. I listened and noticed that all she was doing was setting up interviews - she was not talking with clients, and no one was calling in to the office at all. It was simply interview after interview being set up for other poor saps like myself.
After a solid 20 minute wait, 5 minutes after my scheduled start time, I get called back to speak with one of the managers. His office is much like the waiting area - very stark, cheap furniture. I was happy to find that he had a phone on his desk, which he used to call the front desk and let the admin. asst. know he was running late. I know she got the message because I could hear her through the paper thin walls.
So, the interview starts off with some random questions about sports and marketing. I start to describe my professional experience and the interviewer sort of glosses over and starts making weird notes on my resume...he's using the only pen he had in his otherwise empty desk drawer. Then I get a short description of this "direct marketing" job and a long speech about how everyone is entry level and they only promote from within. In some cases this could be an admirable quality, but such is not the case here. I pull him back to that direct marketing thing he mentioned and asked if this was a telemarketing agency of some sort, and if not, then what exactly do they do. To my relief he says this is not telemarketing, but it's direct marketing for sports aimed at local business, working with local business clients to bring sports products into the market. Even with 3 years of solid advertising agency experience under my belt, I am completely bewildered by his explanation of Direct Marketing. It is abundantly clear to me that this manager has no clue what the difference between direct marketing and direct sales rally is. And I still want to know where the advertising comes in to play. Before I could ask my next question I am cut off and told the next step is to come and and ride along with some other type of manager for training. Interview over, I'm shuttled out the door after my 10 minute interview is up and he says he'll call me, pointing to my now doodle-ridden professional resume. At this point I realize I've just been hired, but I still have no idea what the job is or what this agency does.
Needless to say, I did not attend the training. Whatever this job was (I still have no clue) I didn't want it. I did some further investigating when I returned home and found reports of other interviewees who visited similar so-called marketing or advertising firms and later wrote of a similar experience to mine. I did get a call that evening around 7:30pm from the phone number of the office I had visited. I called them out, stating that I read alot of bad PR and I am not interested in selling coupon books door to door and being paid in cash to do it. I hear laughter from 2nd guy in the background and they sign off by saying, "hey, you know some people just don't have what it takes to be successful."
I guess it depends how you define success. I believe the greatest success would be shutting places like these down so they can no longer prey on recent college grads and the unemployed...particularly with the current job market. To my knowledge nothing they do is illegal, it's just unethical. Unfortunately the best we can do is spread the word and hope they stop wasting everyone's time.