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Poor training, no purpose: why marketing faces ‘worst-ever’ talent crisis

Poor training, no purpose: why marketing faces ‘worst-ever’ talent crisis

Two-thirds of all advertisers, agencies, adtech companies, and media owners surveyed by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and global media advisors MediaSense believe that talent scarcity is proving to be a major blocker to growth.

Almost half (48%) of all respondents say they think the industry is facing its “worst-ever crisis” of talent, according to the global survey.

More than two-thirds (68%) say calling the lack of adequate talent in marketing a “crisis” is not an overstatement, a figure that rises to 74% in the US.

A further 77% of respondents admitted that there is “some” or “high” scarcity of talent in their organization, which is a particularly large among the agency and adtech sectors (85%) and in the US (81%) and APAC (93%).

Reasons cited for the lack of adequate talent include poor training and talent management (76%), a lack of purpose (68%), poor client agency behavior (61%), and over-specialization and recruitment by tech companies (58%).

The latter, with tech companies able to offer more attractive job opportunities, is particularly pronounced in the US (69% versus 52% EMEA and 59% APAC). Advertisers (64%) have been more affected than agencies (49%) by the “tech-steal”.

Talent shortages are particularly felt in the realm of data and analytics (84% reported at both advertisers and agencies).

The Media’s Got Talent? survey is the largest study of its kind, with results based on responses from more than 400 stakeholders from many of the world’s largest advertisers, agencies, media platforms, and tech companies. Meanwhile, 81% of respondents were at the director level with advertiser respondents responsible for in excess of $110bn in annual communications spend.

Matt Green, director of global media services at WFA said: “The talent crisis is affecting all parts of the industry and clients are feeling the pinch within their internal global media teams. But, as this research shows, the impact is particularly pronounced on the agency side and this is having a profound impact on the ability of clients to execute campaigns globally.

“While the industry couldn’t have predicted a global pandemic, this study also identifies intractable, but more predictable issues, that have had a dramatic impact including training, talent management and even a perceived lack of purpose. These factors need to be addressed for the health of all our businesses and in the interest of a stronger client and agency dynamic”.

The talent crisis has been a fraught subject throughout the past few months. In January, The Advertising Association president Alessandra Bellini told delegates at the RENEW 2022 conference that “the shortage of talent is worrying everyone in the industry”, noting that “we are struggling to recruit from a truly diverse talent pool and we are also struggling to retain talent”.

To address the issue, companies may seek to reduce “over-specialization”, which 71% of respondents believe is limiting career progression by creating less well-rounded candidates. Marketing companies are also attempting to address burnout (76% of respondents say a better work-life balance would have a significant impact on attracting higher-quality candidates). Investing more in internal talent management (76%), greater flexibility about where and how people work (73%), great clarity around career progression (72%), and improved salary and benefits (61%) were also cited as potential areas for improvement.

“Organisations need to have really effective career management and development systems in place to give employees real clarity on where the ownership of their career lies and how they can develop,” said Gerry D’Angelo. VP, Global Media, P&G, and Co-Chair WFA Media Forum & Media Board.

Flexibility in particular has become a sticking point, with attempts to return to pre-Covid norms being met with disgruntled employees who may seek to change jobs.

“We spend a lot of time bringing in really talented people and asking them to conform to the systems, norms, and culture of the organisation where we should actually be asking them to use their skills and experiences to really change us as an organisation. That’s how we keep moving forward,” said Belinda Smith, Founder and CEO, Second Arrow and WFA Global Diversity Ambassador.

Ryan Kangisser, managing partner at MediaSense, added: “This study comes at an important time in the industry with businesses experiencing levels of staff attrition never seen before.  And while we remain first and foremost a people-centric business, ‘riding the wave’ is no longer a viable strategy.

“We know the impact this has on future growth, so it is vital that businesses start to invest in talent in a more meaningful way, ensuring they strike a better balance between specialists and all-rounders, youth and experience, expertise and attitude”.

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