Agencies Seeking Digital Talent Should Look Within

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

In August 2006, the cover of Advertising Age screamed with the headline "Digital Talent Dearth Breeds Crisis." Not much has changed since then. Now more than ever, executives from agencies of all kinds -- creative, media, interactive, CRM, PR -- complain about not having enough qualified bodies to fill all the digital roles out there. That's because the number of roles touched by digital is expanding.

It's no longer simply a question of getting enough designers to build out a marketer's website. Put simply, there's intense convergence around all things digital and not enough talent to go around. Interagency cannibalization is bad enough, but when you add the needs of marketers, tech plays and media sellers, you've got a full-on panic on the horizon.

Even agencies that have put digital at the center of their recruiting efforts have often run into a wall when it comes to staffing for new accounts. Too often, these agencies will decline to chase new business because they assume they won't be able to handle it. You know it's bad when a business is forced to sacrifice growth.

The remedy, of course, is training. The ad industry can't expect simply to fill its ranks with youngsters who cut their teeth on digital back when they were just cutting their teeth. Many of the savviest young folks are going to be siphoned off by sexy startups because, let's face it, the agency business isn't going to be able to offer the same perks and equity packages that Silicon Valley does.

What's left is to establish a robust program for educating staffers who in the past may not have had to worry about this stuff. Exposing as many staffers as possible to Flash and Ajax (and to the differences between writing for the web as opposed to, say, print) is important, but agencies will also need to take full advantage of what makes agencies interesting places to work in the first place. That means exposing the talented staff that has to be retained to a variety of clients and geographies rather than keeping them locked away in the home office working on one big account.

We don't envy anyone with the task of repurposing stubborn creatives for a digital world after they've spent their adult lives building careers in the analog realm.

But if you think it's bad now, just wait a few years.
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