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The Digital Talent Drought

A couple weeks ago I had the luxury of getting behind-the-scenes access to one of the marketing communications holding companies’ agency partner meetings (sorry, can’t disclose which one). It quickly became extremely clear the one thing keeping these agencies up at night: how can we attract digital talent?!

Open to today’s AdAge, and Lisa Sanders reports on the digital acquisition mania happening by the Madison Avenue holding companies: since last year, Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis, and WPP have made investments in 18 interactive agencies, including Publicis’s hefty $1.3 billion purchase of Digitas in January. Then flip to today’s Adweek, which reports the hire of Jonathan Sackett as Arnold’s new created role of Chief Digital Officer (following the other recent “CDO” hires at Ogilvy North America, Goodby, Silversetin, and Wieden + Kennedy). Ad agencies are salivating to suck up all the digital marrow they can get their hands on.

As a survivor of the late 90’s irrational exhuberance, all this digital rage does start to induce flashbacks of those horrid fast-food “e-commerce degrees.” Nevertheless, digital has finally arrived in a very real way, and talk to anyone in advertising right now and they’ll tell you digital talent is the hottest commodity and the biggest shortage. There aren’t enough of these graphic designing Flash-afficionados out there, and the ones who are have the upper hand: they’re getting poached and offered the big bucks left and right.

Have you heard any of these wild poachng stories? What feeder pools are the next gen of digital talent coming from (universities, industries, companies, etc)? What innovative techniques are companies using to attract and hold on to this former geek squad? Which ad agencies are doing digitial right and which ones aren’t?

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