The pool of jobs in adland isn't shrinking the way it was a couple of years ago, when the business was reeling from the recession. But with most clients holding the line on marketing budgets and agencies streamlining staff in an attempt to handle more work with fewer employees, it's still a tight employment market for ad talent.
So what are the best bets for job seekers?
For one thing, digital skills are no longer a plus but expected. Mobile and social media are the two areas most in demand. Midlevel analytics jobs are a sweet spot, and media agencies need strategists focused on loyalty and content marketing.
And what about creative technologist, the hottest job title last year? Still desired, though a precursor to other positions that merge agencies' needs. Hybrid roles are here to stay.
The heads of talent at four major agencies offer some observations.
Global chief talent officer, Arnold Worldwide and Havas
"The industry is going through more of a revolution than an evolution," said Ms. Clifford. "Technology and digital overlay has come fast and furiously, and that 's driving a different set of skills and talents that are needed within agencies."
Analytics abilities continue to be in high demand. "Clients want to understand 'Was that mobile campaign successful?', and that requires a set of analytical skills." In particular, Ms. Clifford said, midlevel skills are "in need and hard to find." Another trend "is the rise of the hybrid role, thanks to marketing integration." That perhaps means the rise of generalists as opposed to specialists, and "MBA's might be more desirable."
Global talent director at WPP's Maxus Worldwide
Based in India, Ms. Pahwa said media agencies are hiring more strategists in areas such as content, loyalty and social media. In media buying, "people need to have cross-media buying capabilities to match consumers' consumption and the cross-media ownership," she said, noting that specialist print or radio buyers are out of luck.
Consumer empowerment is also changing media planning, Ms. Pahwa said. "With the time lag between planning, execution and evaluation collapsing, the game is shifting from planning to managing real-time conversations with these consumers. People who can understand how best and when to alter or influence a consumer's journey are in high demand."
Global chief talent officer at Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB
"Social, mobile gurus, gaming folks and content creators ... those are the hot titles [employers] are looking for," said Ms. Augustine, who represented the ad industry at a White House business summit last week seeking ways to spur job creation.
What agencies don't want? "The kind of account managers where it was all about the relationship and keeping the client happy -- those days are over," she said. "The account-management people we're looking for know the clients' business inside and out. They have business acumen but also leadership voice on the creative."
A prediction she makes -- and acknowledges could be unpopular -- is that account managers will have their own creative portfolios.
Chief talent officer at Havas-owned Euro RSCG, New York
"Digital talent is still a real hot button for most agencies," said Ms. Jewell, adding that there has been a surge in recruiting for social-media community managers and engagement planners. Most agencies are still focused on cross-training employees, she said, so "a desire to learn about parts of the business you haven't yet mastered is crucial."