Marketing primed for a hiring spree

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Fortune 500 companies appear ready to bolster their marketing departments in 2005 after years of keeping a lid on headcount.

More than half the respondents in a new survey by staffing firm CPRi said they plan to add staff in their marketing departments next year. The disciplines slated for the biggest increases are several tied to return on investment: project management, data analysis and market research, along with brand marketing.

The study, and similar reports from recruiting and training companies, are a strong indication that marketers, which slashed staff before and after Sept. 11, 2001, are now more comfortable with the direction the economy is going. It also underscores how marketers are trying to keep up with new marketing strategies. Marketers "didn't start to [rebuild] until early 2004," said CPRi CEO Sean Bisceglia.

More than half, 52%, of companies said they plan to add staff in 2005. Since this is the first year of the survey, there is no benchmark, though Mr. Bisceglia said anecdotal evidence indicates planned 2005 hiring levels represent a significant improvement over this year's.

That said-and not surprisingly, given the tepid nature of the recovery-some companies are still putting off hiring. Fully 77% of respondents said they needed to add staff. But of that slice, 25% said they had no plans to hire.

evolving strategies

Tierney Remick, managing director-global consumer products markets at executive recruiter Korn/Ferry International, said marketers have done what they can to cut costs and now must find ways to boost the top line. "There's an emphasis on growth and innovation," she said. "It's going to come out of marketing."

Miles McKie, a partner at executive recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles, said he expected marketing staffs, in the net, to be flat to slightly up in 2005, but added that staffing is "certainly not going down." Companies are "recognizing they need to develop the [marketing] discipline," he said.

The projected increase in hiring reflects how marketers are trying to get their arms around marketing strategies evolving beyond prime-time TV and traditional mass media, said Tom Collinger, a professor at the integrated marketing communications graduate program at Northwestern University. "As the alternatives grow, you need people inside the management" who understand different disciplines.

CPRi found marketing departments are looking to add staff to areas that are, for the most part, directly moving the sales needle. Project management and data analysis led the way, with 15% of respondents saying they planned to add staff. Research closely followed at 14%. Brand marketing was also targeted by 14%. CPRi surveyed 2,500 marketing executives at Fortune 500 companies and had an 8% response rate.

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