Is the talent shortage in the marketing industry a myth?

Is the talent shortage in the marketing industry a myth?
Is the talent shortage in the marketing industry a myth?

Reports regularly appear claiming that there is a dearth of talented marketers to fill the industry's vacancies, and that a skills gap threatens progress. We asked six leading marketers if this is the reality on the ground.

Dom Robertson, Managing director, RPM

We have started to address the challenge but need to ensure it remains high on all our agendas. Despite being in charge of making our clients and their brands more attractive, we don't do nearly enough of that for ourselves. There is some great work being done looking at how we ensure greater diversity within the industry, but it's just the start. We have to appeal to the new generation of workers who put a higher emphasis on job satisfaction than salary and, while being competitive, we need to align their ambitions and passion points with agency goals.

We must make our industry more appealing, allow easy initial access via work experience, continue to drive diversity, and when you recruit the right staff, invest in developing their aspirations and skills. Our best talent is generally home-grown. We work in a vibrant, creative, commercial, fast-paced and exciting industry - we just need to tell people.

Thomas Delabriere, Marketing vice-president (Middle East, Turkey and Africa), Mars 

The reality is that companies that offer the perspective of rewarding careers in an inspiring environment will always find talented marketers.

At Mars, our graduate programmes give young marketers the opportunity to take on real responsibility at a very early stage, while focusing on their self-development, in a collaborative environment with strong principles. It is definitely a great way to attract and develop the marketing talents our industry needs.

Also, one of the biggest opportunities for the marketing industry is to tap into the resources from so-called developing markets. Since I moved to the Middle East, I have been fascinated by the energy and the desire to learn of many young marketers here. With the right development plan, they will become, and are already becoming, the marketing stars of tomorrow.

Jemima Bird, Commercial and operations director, Moss Bros Group

I am not sure about anyone else, but I am contacted by family members, friends, friends of friends, work colleagues, friends of work colleagues (you get where I am going with this) what must be every week, asking whether their "little Johnny" could come in and do some work experience.

Generally, these straight-out-of-university young graduates are bright, articulate, hardworking and engaging. Unfortunately we, along with most other businesses, do not have a permanent position for them currently.

In my view it is not that there is a talent shortage in the marketing industry, more that there is a shortage of jobs to offer the new talent. As a result, the bar for what 'good' looks like is raised ever-higher, the pick of the pool brighter and sharper than ever.

As we come out of recession, we are well-placed to have an injection of energy and passion from young people who just want a chance to shine.

James Murphy, Founder and chief executive, Adam & Eve/DDB

This is no myth, because, at a very fundamental level, the opportunities for brands to use marketing to thrive have never been broader.

This means that almost every brand we work with would love to have even more talent at its disposal.

It's also the case that to thrive as a marketer you need to be smarter, broader and quicker than ever, and the talent that can meet this challenge has always been in short supply. You have more channels at your disposal and more opportunities to engage your audience - but this means more is expected of you.

The future of the industry clearly belongs to a rare breed that marry quick, instinctive and brave judgement with strong commercial and technical understanding. And if someone has this blend of modern skills and intelligence, there's a high probability they may be interested in doing their own thing, or heading in to the entrepreneurial edges of tech or finance.

Kristof Fahy, Chief marketing officer, William Hill

I am lucky enough to be a mentor for The Marketing Academy and over the past four years have seen a steady stream of annoyingly brilliant marketing talent.

Of course, there are challenges to finding good people as the breadth of what constitutes marketing grows - data, digital, social, content and so on. But then you need to go and look in different places and industries for the skills.

Marketers and their HR teams need to broaden their scope - look beyond the obvious and demonstrate creativity in their approach to recruitment and talent. Above all, it's actually basic marketing - you have to make your brand and your opportunity attractive. Talented people want to see how they can progress, grow, learn and achieve - not just earn a wage.

The talent of today seem to have a view that they get to choose how and where they work ... and maybe they do.

Grant Duncan, European marketing officer practice head, Spencer Stuart 

The marketing talent is out there; it is just found in different places.

The marketing industry is a broad church. It is becoming less 'siloed' and in many ways more appealing. With increasing digitisation, marketing is a richer discipline and an even more interesting and engaging career than it has ever been - with a diversity of opportunities and roles that a few years ago simply didn't exist.

However, some of the talent that would normally have headed into conventional marketing roles is being deflected toward digital organisations or brands. This will put pressure on the traditional marketing 'academies' to think in a more imaginative way about how to attract and retain Millennials, who, instead of a classic marketing career, are looking for agile, entrepreneurial environments and gaining a range of experiences and skills early in their career.

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Each month The Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic. For more on membership, visit


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