Following a downturn in hiring in the aftermath of the dot-com crash, agencies are now staffing up as online spending increases and clients beef up their interactive marketing efforts.
"Ad professionals with interactive marketing experience are in huge demand," said Ragan Jones, senior recruiter at Talent Zoo, an advertising recruiting firm.
"There are openings across the country, across the board."
Agency executives said the hottest areas are rich media development, media planning, analytics and strategic consulting.
"We are looking for people with strategic insight who can understand what will be relevant to our customers' target audiences," said Laura Lang, president of Digitas, which currently has more than 1,500 employees, following its acquisition of Modem Media last year.
Lang said Digitas is looking for people with experience in rich media development. "We are hiring people who understand the way the technology works and how to adapt it to meet the needs of our clients," she said.
Jim Rossman, chief operating officer at Digitas, added, "We're trying to bring in more conceptual creative talents who understand the core essence of a brand and can create and generate an emotional response from a customer or prospect."
Agency.com is also looking for people with rich media skills, particularly those who can design in Flash. Other hot areas are search, analytics and media planning, said Julie Roth Novack, exec VP-corporate strategy at Agency.com.
"We are really looking for information architects, people who can craft a user experience," she said.
Agency.com, which currently has close to 400 employees, will probably boost its work force by 20% to 25% this year, Novack said.
Interactive agency AKQA has been on a major hiring spree. In 2004, it added senior executives across the board, with an emphasis on creative talent. "In the last three months, we hired three of the top creative talents in the world," said Shane Ginsberg, managing director of AKQA, San Francisco, who was named to his position in 2004. He was previously managing director of online agency Razorfish.
AKQA hired Rei Inamoto as global creative director, from executive creative director at New York technology agency R/GA; PJ Pereira as executive creative director, San Francisco, from creative director at AgenciaClick in Brazil and 2005 Cannes cyber jury president; and Lars Bastholm as executive creative director, New York, from creative director, Framfab, a Swedish agency.
"Both Rei and PJ came with strong technology backgrounds," Ginsberg said. "Both of them were geeks before they were creative."
Some agencies are looking outside the agency business to recruit online talent.
"Atmosphere BBDO likes to look for people who do not come from traditional agency backgrounds," said Andreas Combuechen, CEO of Atmosphere BBDO. He said the agency has recruited people who have experience in various trades to provide hands-on industry experience.
Jones, the Talent Zoo recruiter, said agencies must look outside the traditional talent pool to find candidates.
"There are very talented individuals out there, and interactive may be their passion," Jones said. "Look at their skills, look at their work, not necessarily the pedigree of their resume, to determine whether they are a good hire."