Caroline Cooke. Marketing Insight. November 17, 2017.
The once-glamorous world of marketing and advertising is losing its sex appeal.
Millennials aren’t buying in to careers in the industry. Instead, marketing organizations and ad agencies are losing top talent to technology companies that offer “purpose” and “culture,” according to the study “Bridging the Talent Disconnect.”
The Association of National Advertiser’s Educational Foundation (AEF) conducted the study to better understand the growing challenges of new talent acquisition in the industry. The study surveyed stakeholders representing various aspects of the industry, including professionals, educators, and students.
We had the opportunity to speak with ANA Educational Foundation President Gordon McLean, who shared his unique insights into the study’s findings. He also provided recommendations on how to reverse this troublesome trend.
The study revealed four major areas of disconnect between industry professionals, academia, and students.
1. Digital transformation is constantly evolving its skill requirements
In the age of digital marketing, top talent is considered a “T-shaped candidate” – someone who’s both qualitative and quantitative in their approach. The peanut butter and the jelly.
“Does that sound like a tall order?” McLean asks. “One CEO says, ‘We’re looking for super-humans.’ They don’t exist, but you need that single discipline area of expertise…with an indication that there’s more capability in critical thinking to come.”
Some recent graduates lack the skills needed for marketing today because they don’t know what skills to focus on. Many students have a murky understanding of what constitutes a career in marketing or advertising. One reason: Roles and responsibilities are constantly evolving, making it hard to map out a successful long-term career path. From the outside, the career ladder in marketing and advertising looks more like a “jungle gym,” the study says.
Some students aren’t even thinking about the skills they need in terms of their coursework. Instead, they’re focused on getting real world experience through internships, which they see as a critical opportunity to separate theory from reality.
Plus, the life of Don Draper doesn’t appeal to many modern-day millennials. “Mad Men has done more to raise awareness to marketing and advertising than any other program or initiative,” McLean says. “It’s probably also done more to damage the credibility and meaningfulness of it as a profession.”
Millennials see the work of advertising as “lacking purpose,” according to the study—a direct slap in the face to anyone who’s worked on an advertisement or marketing campaign that’s actually inspired positive action.
2. Universities and businesses disagree on who’s responsible for training marketers
It takes a village to raise a marketer or advertiser, yet the industry wants fully-formed professionals upon graduation. Does the industry also want newborn babies to come out potty-trained?
Colleges and universities are expected to transform rowdy teenagers into skilled professionals in just four years. They’re also facing increased pressure to cover new material that meets ever-changing industry needs in that short time frame. But educational institutions are unprepared to keep up with the speed of digital transformation and its shifting skill sets, leaving many graduates unprepared for jobs in the field.
Educators are trying to balance providing a job-focused education with their primary purpose of developing well-rounded leaders. Students are frustrated that half of their college experience is spent taking general education courses, which may prepare them for backup careers as Jeopardy contestants, but doesn’t provide them with enough opportunity to explore multiple career paths.
One area universities are making some headway is incorporating analytics into course curriculum. Many graduates trained in analytics find themselves at a significant advantage, as its importance continues to increase.
Given the speed of change, the only way for universities to develop job-ready graduates is if the industry is involved with curriculum planning and internships. After all, students are graduating from college, not Hogwarts. According to McLean, “Agencies have to take the lead.”
3. Tech companies are competing for talent with better culture and pay
Due to the huge demand for data analytics and digital expertise, marketing agencies are on the losing end of a talent war with technology companies. Tech company are offering millennials culture, purpose, work-life balance, stock options, napping pods, travel sabbaticals, and avocado toast with a side of “purpose.” The hoodies are beating the suits.
“If you look at where marketing is as a career choice, even within a business faculty, out of the thirteen different business faculties, it’s probably number eleven,” McLean says. “We’re at a competitive disadvantage to virtually every other profession.”
To make matters worse, in the rush to keep pace with the speed of digital transformation, most marketing organizations and ad agencies have been focused on hastily filling immediate talent gaps instead of investing in the next generation of talent. “HR leaders tend to be hiring to fill immediate slots,” McLean says, “whereas, [marketing executives] are often thinking about, ‘How do I get the individual with the most long-term potential?’”
Agencies face an additional set of talent-related challenges, because they’re under pressure to deliver results for clients. Creative chiefs need skilled talent who can deliver those results without a steep learning curve, but they often struggle to find recent graduates who are prepared for even entry-level jobs in advertising and marketing.
4. Millennials have “great expectations”
Another issue is cultural fit. Some marketing and advertising industry professionals still balk at millennials’ desire for “purpose” and their “great expectations” for entry level positions. But this old-school mentality is backfiring. The industry is losing talent to other industries willing to meet millennials’ job demands.
“If there’s one thing that genuinely motivates students, it’s doing something that makes a difference,” McLean says. “It’s ironic. As marketers, we spend so much time putting purpose at the center of our companies, putting purpose at the center of our brands, and yet we really haven’t put purpose at the heart of our profession.”
Times have changed and the workforce has evolved. Millennials are taking over the workforce on their terms, which includes taking jobs that align with their interests and values.
The proposed solution
Simply put, the industry needs a rebrand.
The AEF is calling on marketers and advertisers to inspire the next generation of talent by shedding light on the purpose and significance of a career path in this field.
“Fantastic social campaigns are happening [in advertising]. So many initiatives are being done around gender equity, diversity, and building businesses,” McClean says. “We need to provide more certainty around the fact that this is not only a meaningful career, but it’s also one that can be financially rewarding over time.”
In response to these needed industry changes, the AEF has created Pathways 2020—a three-part movement that “aims to create a wider, more diverse, and better equipped pool of talent to fuel industry growth.”
1,000 Industry-Campus Activations
With 84% of students reporting improved perceptions of the industry after speaker visits, it’s time for marketing and advertising professionals to hit the pavement and find diverse, new talent. In fact, the study found that diverse workforces are 35% more likely to outperform their peers.
Marketing organizations and agencies also need to develop new recruiting patterns, rather than continuing to recruit from the same five or six schools. The good news is, “when it comes to the new breed of talent that we need it marketing, talent is everywhere,” McClean says. “Many of the schools that aren’t at the top of the radar are producing some of the most creative, highly motivated individuals. We just did a case competition at Wake Forest University; fifteen different schools [competed]. The school that won was Utah State University, and they beat Wharton and Northwestern.”
1,000 Professors Inspired
Professors need more industry exposure, so the AEF is asking industry leaders to offer visiting professor programs and industry fellowships. In addition, the AEF aims to collaborate with industry leaders on developing supplementary curriculum for professors and educational institutions.
1,000 Students Immersed
The AEF is also working to create an internship program that will help to provide a relatively standardized internship experience. “It’s not coming for ten weeks and working on a competitive analysis in some obscure category,” McLean says. “The intent is [for students] to be exposed to three to five of the things that constitute modern marketing.”
Industry heavyweights like GE, IBM, and NBC, are already working with the AEF to roll out this internship program in 2018. “We’re getting the industry behind us, and it’s not just marketers, it’s also their agency partners,” McLean adds.
The AEF is asking professionals to pledge a commitment to a speaker program, internship, or professor visit. We second the request. The best way to move marketing and advertising forward is together.
Erik Oster. Adweek, September 21, 2017.
A new study from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that the advertising industry is facing a “looming marketing and advertising talent crisis.”
The study, entitled “Bridging the Talent Disconnect: Charting the Pathways to Future Growth,” was funded by the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF) and conducted by market research company GfK. It surveyed marketing leaders, academics and students/new hires to arrive at its conclusions. Among the findings were that college students were unsure what a career in advertising and marketing entailed and whether it represented work they deemed “meaningful.”
The report found that this talent disconnect is “particularly acute in the lack of diversity throughout the industries examined in the report.”
“Finding and retaining talent has been a serious problem in our industry for some time. But this pioneering new study has revealed that the system to create our next generation of marketing and advertising talent is strained to a breaking point,” ANA CEO Bob Liodice said in a statement. “Immediate action is required, and the AEF has developed the necessary steps to address this critical issue by bridging the gap between the core constituents.”
“Our next generation of talent will be the single most important driver of industry growth,” added AEF president-CEO Gord McLean. “Marketers and agencies must take the lead, but we know from experience that whenever we get together with the academic community the most important players – the students themselves – benefit.”
The report cited four key reasons for the disconnect between advertising agencies and marketers, academics and students: the digital transformation of the ad industry, increased competition from tech companies, “differing generational expectations of work environment, job responsibilities and career advancement,” and academic curricula not keeping pace with the rapid changes in the industry.
The ANA and AEF issued a call to action for agencies and marketers to partner with educators to address these concerns, a collection of initiatives known as Pathways 2020. Pathways 2020 includes industry campus visits and an expanded “Visiting Professors” program, as well as “formal, ‘accredited’ guidelines and best practices for internship experiences.”
McLean added that AEF will partner with ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive & Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), which launched last October, to ensure that “diversity will inform every aspect of Pathways 2020 program development.”
E.J. Schultz. AdAge, September 21, 2017.
Advertisers have been bemoaning the lack of talent in the field for years and the industry’s leading trade group has officially confirmed long-nagging suspicions: Feeder schools are way behind the times and tech titans are more than happy to mop up the brain drain.
The Association of National Advertisers has issued a scathing new report that — without necessarily shocking anyone — lays bare core challenges in the industry: Marketers and ad agencies face a “looming marketing and advertising talent crisis” because universities aren’t keeping pace with the industry’s changing needs. The study calls for more collaboration between marketing professionals and educators.
The association also found that more young workers are fleeing to consultancies and tech giants such as Facebook, Apple and Google that offer more generous salaries and perks.
Marketers and agencies are struggling to “decipher and adapt to the millennial mindset while being frustrated that recent graduates are often unprepared to enter the field,” according to the study. At the same time, young workers say they are not getting opportunities for rapid advancement. They perceive the tech and startup culture as providing more purposeful work and creative job environments, the study found.
“Finding and retaining talent has been a serious problem in our industry for some time,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice said in a statement. “But this pioneering new study has revealed that the system to create our next generation of marketing and advertising talent is strained to a breaking point,” he added, calling for “immediate action.”
The report was commissioned by the ANA’s educational foundation, known as AEF, and conducted by market research company GfK. Results came from surveys of chief marketing officers, human resources executives, university professors and deans, career counselors and new hires and college students.
Jason DeLand, founding partner of Anomaly, was not involved with the study. But he agreed with its conclusion about competition from other industries for talent, saying marketing and advertising has “experienced an incredible and unfortunate brain drain.”
“If I graduated this year, I would not go into this industry,” he said in an email interview. “I might want to, but there would be greater and better opportunities for advancement elsewhere.” Agencies are “not making enough money and not being able to compete with other industries,” he added. “We ought to do away with the billable hour and stop giving ideas away cheaply in an effort to survive. Put more money into innovations.”
The study paints an especially dim view of academia, finding that “college and university curricula cannot keep pace with the rapid change going on in the industry.” Furthermore, “coursework and textbooks are out of date almost as soon as they’re published, and much that is taught about marketing and communications is outdated and unrelated to management expectations and students’ actual experience in the field,” the report states.
The study points to new digital channels that have led to new roles like social media and digital analytics managers that require skills such as data management and advanced analytics. But “these constantly evolving skill requirements and job definitions have made it difficult for marketers and agencies to define and promise clear career paths to students and prospective hires with any consistency,” according to the report.
As a solution, the ANA and AEF has started a new initiative called “Pathways 2020,” that seeks to deepen the industries ties with universities. The program pledges to organize more than 1,000 marketing and ad executive visits to college campuses by 2020, while creating a “formalized toolkit for industry representatives to ensure professional consistency of content and engagement.” The AEF is also ramping up an existing program in which professors visit agencies and marketers. The goal is to get 1,000 professors at sites by 2020. The AEF also wants to lure 1,000 students to participate in immersion programs like summer internships. The AEF is creating accredited guidelines for internship programs.
“Marketing educators can, and the majority probably do, keep close tabs on developments in industry and supplement any textbook with up-to-date cases and discussion of things happening in marketing and communications as the course is being taught,” Michelle Nelson, immediate past president of the Marketing Educators’ Association and a professor at Linfield College in Oregon, stated in an email interview.
She said the AEF program to connect professors and students with agencies and marketers is “extremely valuable.” She noted that “in the past agencies sometimes didn’t see the immediate value of such programs for them but they are essential to strengthen the relationship between education and practice.”
Derek Rucker, a professor of entrepreneurial studies in marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said in an email that “it’s true that communications are evolving so fast that coursework and textbooks cannot capture everything,” But he added that “at Kellogg we interact a lot with people in firms, so I’d say we are getting exposure that helps us to stay up to speed and to work on research at the cutting edge.”
DeLand said a liberal arts education, not specialized marketing classes, is the “greatest foundation for this business.”
He added: “My advice to incoming kids in this years freshmen class is to cast the net wide. I don’t care if you can write a clever insta post, or a headline or design a logo or an app. I care deeply how you think. If you can solve problems and if you have a POV based on something real. If you can write, If you can think of ideas that power businesses and if you’re willing to work your ass off and learn too, then you’ll have my complete attention.”
Minda Smiley. The Drum, September 21, 2017.
The talent crisis facing the advertising and marketing industries is hitting a tipping point that could prove to be dire if clear steps aren’t taken to make the fields more appealing, according to a recent report out of the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF).
Attracting top-tier talent to the fields has been a topic of concern for some time now, but the conversation around the issue has gotten got louder in recent years as agencies struggle to lure candidates away from the likes of Facebook and Google as well as startups. The lack of female and minority representation has also given the advertising industry a bad rap as of late, a problem that’s led brands including HP, General Mills and Verizon to demand that their agency partners hire more women and people of colour.
The report found that both marketers and the agencies they work with are facing an “unprecedented talent challenge” that’s largely being driven by “a lack of common vision, vocabulary, and perceived relevance among marketers, young professionals, and the schools that are expected to educate them.” The study also found that students are unclear about career paths in marketing and advertising, and whether or not they constitute “meaningful” work.
Overall, the findings point to a large disconnect between students, universities and employers. According to the AEF, universities are struggling to develop courses that keep up with the changing nature of the marketing and advertising industries while still providing students with things like critical thinking skills. On top of that, the changing nature of the industries has led to course work and textbooks being “out of date almost as soon as they’re published,” which means much of what is being taught to students about the subject is outdated and unrelated to management expectations once they actually enter the field.
The rise of digital, social media and data-based roles has also posed an issue for both graduates and employers since the skills required for these roles are continually changing. According to the AEF, “these constantly evolving skill requirements and job definitions have made it difficult for marketers and agencies to define and promise clear career paths to students and prospective hires with any consistency.”
As marketers and agencies increasingly seek graduates with expertise in data analytics and digital capabilities, they’re finding that many of the people who are actually qualified for these positions would rather work for tech giants and consultancies instead. The study points out that companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and the Boston Consulting Group provide “more generous compensation packages to new hires, both in terms of salary and perks” in comparison to their marketing and advertising counterparts.
Aside from skill set and qualification issues, the study also found that “different generational expectations for job responsibilities, quality of life, and career advancement” are posing problems for marketing executives who aren’t sure how to effectively manage, motivate and retain this new crop of talent that prioritizes “creative” job environments and “purpose” in their work.
To remedy some of these issues, the AEF and ANA have outlined a number of steps that they plan to take in the coming years that will aim to inspire rather than alienate the next generation of talent. Called Pathways 2020, the initiative plans to “make the case for what a creative, innovative and rewarding career marketing can be.”
Part of the initiative involves expanding the AEF’s ‘Visiting Professors’ program, which gives professors a chance to spend time at an advertising or marketing firm so they can get a better sense of how the industries operate on a day-to-day basis. The AEF is aiming to give 1,000 professors on-site experiences by 2020.
The AEF also wants to send 1,000 marketing and advertising executives on campus visits by 2020. According to the AEF, it will “create a formalized toolkit for industry representatives to ensure professional consistency of content and engagement.”
The AEF is also instituting an internship program called ‘M/Ade’ that aims to better leverage the organizations’ academic relationships to connect students with internships that they’re interested in. In addition to a spring semester training program that will teach incoming interns about things like media transparency and multicultural marketing, the AEF is planning to partner with the ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive & Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) to ensure that “a healthy pipeline of diverse talent” is involved with the internship program.
“Finding and retaining talent has been a serious problem in our industry for some time,” said ANA chief executive Bob Liodice in a statement. “But this pioneering new study has revealed that the system to create our next generation of marketing and advertising talent is strained to a breaking point. Immediate action is required, and the AEF has developed the necessary steps to address this critical issue by bridging the gap between the core constituents.”
The report was conducted through market research firm GfK via 55 interviews with deans, professors, chief marketing officers, agency chief executives, human resources leaders and chief talent officers from the industry in addition to 10 focus groups with students and new hires across the US.
Developed by the ANA Educational Foundation, Program Is Part of ANA Masters Circle and Will Offer Paid Opportunities for Students at Marketers and Agencies
ORLANDO, Fla. (October 5, 2017) — The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) today announced a new summer internship program developed by the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF) for the next generation of leaders in the marketing and advertising industries.
The program, called MADE (Marketing and Advertising Education), will be a key pillar of the ANA’s Masters Circle, an initiative established last year to unite CMO agendas and create a powerful force to transform the industry. Currently almost 400 CMOs participate in some level of Masters Circle activity, which has included the introduction of a multicultural program called AIMM (Alliance for Inclusive & Multicultural Marketing) and the publication of a new CMO playbook filled with case studies from leading national advertisers.
Initially, MADE will include paid summer internships for 50 undergraduates at a wide range of participating marketing companies and advertising agencies. As the program evolves, the AEF will significantly increase the number of participating students each year.
“Internships, both in quantity and quality, have become the single most important hiring criterion for students entering our industry,” said AEF President-CEO Gord McLean. “Our goal is to make sure those internships provide the best quality experience for students, and to identify the best quality candidates for marketers and agencies.”
MADE originated from the findings uncovered in the recent AEF study “Bridging the Talent Disconnect: Charting Pathways to Future Growth.” That report revealed a serious divide among key constituents in the talent crunch currently embroiling the advertising and marketing industries. The study led the AEF to create a new initiative called Pathways 2020, which is designed to create a wider, more diverse, and better-prepared pool of talent to fuel industry growth.
The MADE program will officially be launched later this month. Applications will be open through the fall semester and interns will be selected at the start of the spring semester 2018. After interns are selected, the AEF will organize training sessions on key industry issues that will help prepare students for the program.
“Our recent study indicated that all industry stakeholders agree that substantive internship experiences are a key component in preparing students for a career in marketing and advertising,” said Elliot Lum, AEF vice president of talent strategy and program development. “With MADE, our goal is to channel the highest quality, most diverse talent into a best-in-class summer internship program that showcases the excitement, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit of what the marketing and advertising industry has to offer this next generation of leaders.”
To date, almost 30 marketers and ad agencies have agreed to participate in the program, including the ANA, the Ad Council, Adobe, BBDO, Carhartt, DDB, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Horizon Media, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, IBM, J. Walter Thompson, MasterCard, McCann, Momentum, National Geographic Society, Ogilvy & Mather, Publicis Media, R/GA, Vonage, Walton Isaacson, and Xaxis.
Lum said additional goals for MADE include:
- Entry-Level Skills Standardization: Positioned as the “common app” for internships, this program will create entry-level skills standardization for the industry. It is an opportunity to identify the core skills that are necessary for the entire industry to evaluate future talent.
- Summer Intern Program Certification: The AEF will certify marketing and advertising summer intern programs to create industry thresholds for skills acquired, executive exposure, and project depth for this experience.
- Diversity Emphasis and Tracking: The AEF has partnered with the ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive & Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) to ensure a healthy pipeline of diverse talent coming into the summer internship program.
For more details, read MADE Internship Executive Summary.
Steve McClellan. MediaPost Agency Daily, September 21, 2017.
For years, the industry has talked about the challenges of hiring top young talent to join its ranks. Now, the ANA Educational Foundation has completed an in-depth report on the industry’s job pool and recruitment efforts.
It found what it calls “a looming marketing and advertising talent crisis.”
The report says the crisis is driven “in large measure by a lack of common vision, vocabulary and perceived relevance among marketers, young professionals and the schools that are expected to educate them.”
More specifically, the report cited the digital transformation for altering and enhancing post-graduate career paths, as well as the fact marketers and advertisers now compete directly with technology companies for top talent.
According to the report, expectations are also different for today’s generation of young talent, which is more likely to seek “purpose” in their work and “fun” job environments established by the start-up culture.
The report also states that college and university programs are not keeping pace with the rapid changes in the industry. “Course work and textbooks are out of date almost as soon as they’re published, and much that is taught about marketing and communications is outdated and unrelated to management expectations and students’ actual experience in the field.”
The report concludes that marketers and agencies need to “partner with educators to inspire and prepare the next generation of marketing and advertising leaders.” By doing so, the ANA and the Foundation believe a “wider, more diverse and better prepared pool of talent” can be created to fuel industry growth.
To that end, the ANA/AEF are establishing the “Pathways 2020” initiative. First steps include an effort by the AEF and the ANA to facilitate over 1,000 marketing and advertising executive campus visits by 2020.
In addition, the groups are taking greater strides to engage college professors. The AEF is expanding its current “Visiting Professors” program to ensure at least 1,000 professors will have on-site industry experiences by 2020, including participation in ANA member conferences and committee meetings.
AEF will also create formal “accredited” guidelines and best practices for internships to bring industry consistency in the identification, recruitment and training of students entering the marketing and advertising industry.
“Finding and retaining talent has been a serious problem in our industry for some time,” stated ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “But this pioneering new study has revealed that the system to create our next generation of marketing and advertising talent is strained to a breaking point.
“Immediate action is required, and the AEF has developed the necessary steps to address this critical issue by bridging the gap between the core constituents.”
“Our next generation of talent will be the single most important driver of industry growth,” added AEF President-CEO Gord McLean. “Marketers and agencies must take the lead, but we know from experience that whenever we get together with the academic community, the most important players – the students themselves – benefit.”
Rebecca Aston. Marketing Week, September 28, 2017.
The US Association of National Advertisers has revealed the extent of the talent crisis in the advertising and marketing industry.
Its scathing new report says marketers and advertising agencies face a “looming marketing and advertising talent crisis” because universities can’t keep up with the fast paced industry. The study acknowledges a need for more collaboration between professionals, educators and students.
The association found that young workers are more inclined to seek jobs in consultancies and tech giants such as Apple, Google and Facebook due to the more generous salaries and perks. Young workers have expressed that they are not getting opportunities for rapid advancement.
ANA CEO, Bob Liodice, says: “Finding and retaining talent has been a serious problem in our industry for some time. But this pioneering new study has revealed that the system to create our next generation of marketing and advertising talent is strained to a breaking point.”
As a solution, the ANA and AEF has started a new initiative called ‘Pathways 2020’, that seeks to deepen industry ties with universities.
Dwayne Waite Jr. Business 2 Community, September 22, 2017.
In late September, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) sent out a press release highlighting a study done by its academic arm, the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF). The study, assisted by research firm Gfk, asserts that there is a glaring disconnect between academic institutions, marketing professionals, and the marketing students who are being groomed to leap from academia to industry.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new.
Yes, from the time I was a student at university, I experienced first-hand how academia and industry were unaligned. The material I was charged to learn in the classroom was nearly irrelevant in my internships.
Previous Attempts to Fix the “Disconnect”
And professional organizations have been posturing to close the gap for years. The American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) launched an initiative years ago that would bring diverse and intelligent students to different agencies to get a taste of what real-life marketing looks like. The American Academy of Advertising (AAA, I know, not the best acronym for branding), has annual conferences bringing academic professors and professionals together to hash out issues and establish common beliefs and practices. But to what end?
This sentiment has been brewing in our marketing environment for decades, and it seems like our industry is quickly reaching a flashpoint.
The Looming “Crisis”
The study done by the ANA/AEF brings this disconnect up for two reasons. First, the disconnect is creating marketing pre-professionals who ‘seem’ to be ill-equipped for the current marketing environment. Secondly, with the rise of technology and analytics, the talent that the marketing and advertising industry would like to recruit, are going off to the startup and technology industries, where salaries are higher and workplaces are a little less stuffy.
Therefore, a ‘talent crisis’ in the ad world is looming.
Everyone’s to Blame
The ANA/AEF in the press release and on the AEF site highlights the ways it believes the organization can start addressing this disconnect, and therefore slow down the coming crisis. Below are the three calls to action the article highlights:
- •Getting 1,000 marketing and advertising executives to visit college campuses by 2020
- •Getting 1,000 marketing professors to have on-site industry experiences by 2020
- •Recruiting 1,000 students to the ANA/AEF Immersion Program and go through its internship program by 2020.
All of that is well and good, but it sounds to me that the ANA is saying that if academia and college students understand the industry better, than they’ll be better equipped to go into industry. And true, that’s part of it. But there’s again, a glaring piece missing here.
Where does it say for the industry to itself to change in a manner that makes it more attractive to the newer generations? The marketing industry has some skin in the game too.
Believing that simply showing college professors and students real-life marketing experiences will cull their expectations and get them excited to jump into an industry that refuses to change itself, is foolish and insulting.
What Can the Marketing and Advertising Industry Do?
If the marketing and advertising industry is competing for talent against the tech and consulting industries, wouldn’t it make sense to investigate what those companies are doing that marketing agencies aren’t? Why not look at the culture of the marketing and advertising world, and see how it stands against others? Students can learn about digital media strategy and predictive modeling all they want, but if your agency has a number of bad reviews on GlassDoor, you better believe that candidate is looking somewhere else.
I know that there are a few high-profile marketing thought leaders who know that the most valuable capital an agency or marketing department can have is its people. And those agencies and companies are doing well.
The marketing industry does itself a major injustice when advocacy groups like the ANA croon this ‘disconnect’ study, and then proves its own point by refusing to look internally. There’s a reason why the average CMO tenure is two years. There’s a reason why marketing professionals have the lowest morale when it comes to advocating their own profession.
It is clear that the academic world needs to revamp how it teaches marketing and advertising. It requires a lean-model of marketing education, where trends and thoughts in the current landscape can be adjusted to teaching real-time. What does that look like? I’m not sure. It is also true that students of marketing advertising need to look for opportunities to see what industry professionals do in reality, and seek ways to adopt those practices so they can be ready for the real world. And finally, the marketing industry needs to realize that there are other ways these young professionals can use their talents. They are searching for brands and agencies that will fit their value system. Complain if you must, but figuring out a way to recruit and retain them can no longer be a rhetorical exercise.
Michael Farmer. MediaBiz Villages, September 27, 2017.
ANA was brave to issue a “scathing report” (per AdAge) on the lack of talent in the advertising industry. Certain outsiders were fingered as contributing to the talent problem: universities that “aren’t keeping pace with the industry’s changing needs” and consultancies and tech giants that are offering “more generous salaries and perks.” (Shame on them!) On top of this, Millennials remain an enigma — why aren’t they more eager to enter the industry? What ANA did not describe were the day-to-day operations of advertisers and agencies that have turned the advertising working environment into a relatively unattractive one for job-seeking graduates, a trend that has been in swing and gaining momentum for the past 15 years. Blame the universities and consultancies if you will, but advertisers and agencies need to take personal responsibility for some of the industry’s talent crises.
Before I proceed further, some full disclosure: For nearly two decades, I was a strategy consultant with The Boston Consulting Group and a Director of Bain & Company. During the more recent 25 years, I have been consulting to ad agencies and their clients (as Farmer & Co.) and I have observed a deterioration in agency-advertiser working relationships that is a clear source, in my view, of the talent problem. I recently wrote a book about this — Madison Avenue Manslaughter: An Inside View of Fee-Cutting Clients, Profit-Hungry Owners and Declining Ad Agencies. Finally, I was invited to teach at The City College of New York (CCNY) in an ambitious and up-to-date program that prepares Millennial graduate students for careers in Branding and Integrated Communications (BIC). So, in a sense, I have personally checked all the boxes covered by the ANA report: the universities, the consulting firms and the Millennials.
BIC students who complete internships at agencies during their course of study often report that agency people are overworked and understaffed; that they are under various types of pressures if not abuse from clients (who seem to be prepared to change agencies at the drop of a hat); that they carry out a lot of unplanned work; that agency people are relatively underpaid compared to their colleagues at Bain, Deloitte, Accenture, etc., and that they work with people who see career progression as a difficult question. Industry surveys of agency morale come to the same conclusions. Furthermore, if students were initially interested in the advertising industry to solve brand strategy and growth problems, they see too little of this in their internship agencies.
What they experience is an agency machine that cranks out huge volumes of deliverables by relatively cheerful and energetic agency people on short deadlines to meet client needs. Despite this, all of our students do their best to enter the industry that they prepared for, although agency jobs are few and far between. Agencies are not growing.
The contrast with the consulting firms could not be more vivid. Although consultants work hard and put in overtime and weekends, there is a general feeling that “our work adds value and my contributions are appreciated.” All you need to do is read Glassdoor.com reviews of consulting firms and ad agencies to see the contrast. Differences in salary levels are not to be sniffed at. A graduate entering an ad agency may earn $35-40,000 with no bonus; a consulting firm will pay $65-75,000 plus a signing bonus of $20,000 and a guaranteed first-year bonus of another $15-20,000. It only goes up from there.
The talent gap is real, and the gap is understandable as a long-term outcome of agency-advertiser working relationships that are less than desirable. Agencies need to up their game and help clients improve brand performance; advertisers need to treat agencies with respect and engage them seriously as long-term partners to deal with brand problems. Both sides need to see their individual and joint contributions as “winning” rather than “failing.” It will take money to make this right, but in today’s cost-cutting, procurement-led relationships, it’s not clear where the money will come from. With current trends, agencies will remain underfunded suppliers who cannot afford to hire and retain the kind of talent they need. And the talent gap will only widen.
This doesn’t let the universities off the hook. There is unquestionably high variability with the quality and breadth of advertising expertise among university faculties across the country. This is a difficult problem. Those who have practiced marketing and advertising and are now teaching, teach what they practiced and knew — probably from another era. Textbooks woefully lag reality. The principle of “academic freedom” permits teachers to teach what they wish, without much supervision. So, there may be a double problem — inadequately prepared students with out-of-date information who might end up working in suboptimal agency-advertiser relationships.
ANA’s Pathways 2020 initiative to deepen ties with universities is a great step. The industry can only benefit from closer ties between current practitioners and those who teach. Next in line is the need for ANA and 4As to examine honestly the current nature of agency-advertiser relationships, whose many dysfunctions contribute so importantly to the industry’s deepening talent crisis.
WARC, September 22, 2017.
Clients and agencies face a major “talent disconnect” as millennials look to other industries that they perceive as being more attractive to pursue their careers, a study from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has warned.
The research, entitled “Bridging the Talent Disconnect: Charting the Pathways to Future Growth,” was commissioned by the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF), a division of the ANA, and conducted by research firm GfK.
“Marketers, and the agencies that work with them, are facing an unprecedented talent challenge, or ‘talent disconnect’, as millennials look to other, seemingly more appealing fields to build careers,” the study asserted. (For more details, read WARC’s in-depth report: ANA identifies “crisis” of young advertising talent.)
“This is driven in large measure by a lack of common vision, vocabulary, and perceived relevance among marketers, young professionals, and the schools that are expected to educate them.”
In reaching this conclusion, the AEF investigation drew on the views of the three main stakeholder groups making up the talent pipeline: students and new hires, academics, and practitioners in the industry.
Based on these insights, it indicated that agencies will struggle to engage the type of smart, savvy, digital native who can help them tackle the seismic shifts currently reshaping the communications industry.
“Our research suggests that there are multiple disconnects – skills, hiring and retention, and expectations – that threaten to erode the talent development ecosystem,” the AEF report said.
In identifying the reasons for the industry’s problems in colleges, the analysis pointed to courses that often lag behind the dynamic industry reality, and a frustration among employers that students are not more ready for actual jobs.
On their part, the widespread habit of brands and agencies of only hiring staff as needed, rather than having set graduate recruitment policies, undermined their chance of in securing the best prospects – especially when coupled with low pay.
“This channels many students away from either industry and into more structured programs like banking, consulting, and technology because, they need more security to pay off students loans or placate nervous parents,” the study said.
Among the study’s other recommendations were that the industry must endeavour to enhance its reputation. “Overall, there is a negative bias toward the professions of marketing and advertising today,” the study said.
“That lingering perception carries over to the student population, which is looking for more purpose in what they want to do and don’t often put marketing and advertising into their consideration set.”
In starting to address these concerns, the ANA/AEF have launched Pathways 2020, which seeks to deepen the bond between academics and practitioners, give the industry a greater presence on campus, and offer more opportunities for students.