Economy stokes trend toward short-term marketing hires

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The hard times facing the marketing industry may be only temporary, but so, it turns out, are a lot of the jobs.

With an increasing number of companies looking to reduce the full-time head counts in their marketing departments, and a glut of experienced baby boomers available to do consulting stints, a growing number of marketers are looking to fill brand manager, project leader and even marketing director positions with short-term employees.

A trend tracker on Indeed, a search engine that scans U.S. job listings throughout the Internet, shows a sharp spike since May on listings that include the word "temporary" in ads seeking marketing managers, directors and researchers. The spike punctuates a general uptick in such marketing listings relative to all postings since 2005.

The percentage of online job listings containing the words "temporary," "marketing" and "director" surged roughly 50% between May 1 and July 31, according to, even though the trend line for just "marketing" and "director" remained flat during the period.

"I'm finding a lot more companies now are [using] contract employees and consultants at the higher-level jobs, such as director of marketing and senior brand managers," said Michael Carrillo, president of CPG Jobs, which operates the job site CPGjoblist. He also works as a recruiter.

While the move is clearly aimed at controlling head counts and cutting costs, Carrillo said he believes demographic factors are at play, such as baby-boomer employees with valuable experience who have been downsized out of positions but aren't ready to retire.

Broad array of marketers

A variety of companies specialize in the burgeoning area, including conventional temporary-service companies such as Kelly Services and Manpower. They're seeing temporary marketing jobs on the rise even as temporary employment overall has declined steadily since early 2007 due to the slowing economy.

The surge appears to be coming from a surprisingly broad array of marketers.

A recent ad from Creative Group, a unit of Robert Half International, for an unnamed Southern California beauty marketer seeks a marketing director for a temporary assignment possibly converting to full time—and offers someone with eight-plus years of industry experience $50 to $60 an hour.

Media companies also appear to be stepping up temporary hires. Among temporary positions advertised online: a sales and marketing coordinator for Time Warner's; a marketing program manager for EchoStar's Sling Media, marketer of SlingBox; and a site manager whose duties would include marketing of a national portal and social networking site from Gannett Digital, MomsLikeMe.

"Everybody is looking at head count and ways to reduce it," said Joe Hawley, who helped lead the turnaround of Doctor's Dermatologic Formula for two years before the business was sold to Procter & Gamble Co. last year.

The veteran of Avon Products, Unilever and Liz Claiborne is now working as a consultant with his own firm, Hawley Global Partners. While he's open to another permanent position, he's also plying a series of consulting gigs and believes marketing—and even general management functions—increasingly will be outsourced in the way information technology and human resources positions have been in recent years.

Most of these marketers aren't contractors directly through the employer, he said, but through third-party firms such as Aquent, which specializes in providing temporary marketing industry help from its own pool of permanent employees.

"You'll look at a company and not be able to tell who's a contract employee, who's [a permanent employee] from a third-party resource and who's [an employee of] the company," Hawley said.

Of course, the downside can be quality, said Dave Gallagher, president of Boyden, an Atlanta-based executive search firm. "Nobody is going to leave their job," he said, "to be a 90-day temp contractor."

But Hawley said temps aren't always getting worse deals, and some can even be of higher quality.

"I call it rent to buy," he said, adding that many of the positions have permanent potential, sometimes involve equity stakes or involve efforts to bypass corporate salary caps, and can attract people with broader or more current experience than permanent employees. M

Jack Neff is an editor at large at Advertising Age, a BtoB sibling publication.

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