Matthew Hook on the Guardian Media Network: Marketing 2020
The ideal marketers five years from now will be tech-savvy creatives with soft skills to deal with both clients and colleagues. Carat's managing director, Matthew Hook discusses with the Guardian Media Network.
A digital skills shortage is a big concern for many employers and nowhere is this more strongly felt than in marketing, media and the creative industries. UK consumers are the most enthusiastic online shoppers in Europe, with forecasts expecting them to spend more than £50bn this year. Agencies are continually having to rethink their clients’ campaigns as brands take into account new forms of online activity and customer journeys.
Constant innovation relies upon a broad range of digital skills. But these skills are in high demand and short supply – and there’s concern that matters may be getting worse. Clare Kemsley, a managing director at Hays Marketing, a recruitment group, says: “My clients are certainly concerned about the skills gap and our research reveals that marketing professionals themselves are worried that they aren’t as digitally literate as they should be. What’s particularly alarming is that many on both sides are failing to act on these concerns.”
There’s concern among senior figures in advertising and marketing. Matthew Hook, managing director at media agency Carat UK, suggests that the problem is compounded by the fact that demand for digital skills comes from across the wider economy.
“The UK media industry has extraordinary depth of talent,” he said. “But the digital talent pool, in particular, struggles to keep pace with the level of demand, not only from agencies, but also from clients and technology companies.”
Hook added that this demand will only increase as the need for data skills grows: “In five years’ time, the media landscape will be predominantly programmatic, with media activated in near real-time, informed by data.
But while data skills are key, agency heads also say they don’t just want analysts. Rather, the ideal marketers of 2020 will be creatives with technical abilities as well as soft skills to deal with clients and colleagues. Paul Blundell, director of interactive and innovation at FCB Inferno, said that staff with a combination of talents will be the most in-demand as the industry develops. He suggested that a singular job title such as “designer” may become less common, or at least less relevant, in the next decade. “I always like to know what people are doing outside of work and what their other skill sets are. I call it their forward slashes; maybe they are a designer and they dabble in code, so a designer/coder,” he said.
Blundell said that one of the big changes in the marketing industry is the pace with which campaigns are launched – already a challenge for both agencies and their clients, who must grant creative teams greater autonomy. But this trend is only going to increase as qualitative data now makes it possible to monitor and respond to users in real-time.
For Blundell, the ability to handle data, interpret it, respond and maintain a client’s trust will be the hallmark of the marketer of the future: “Now the data is in real-time, we can look at the results as they come in. We need people who can interpret that data and then use it to drive the creative process.”
One of the other main shifts for marketers in the coming years is the increasing importance of mobile and video. Josh Krichefski, chief operating officer at MediaCom UK, said that video watched via mobiles has grown significantly and looks set to continue. The agency recently ran a campaign for Sky featuring Thierry Henry that was shared 21m times.
The majority of these shares was via mobile. Krichefski credits social media platforms such as Facebook as the major drivers of this trend. “The way people are consuming content has changed a lot. People are consuming far more on their mobile phones and a lot of that is video,” he said. “Agencies will want people who understand how mobile works and can explain that to clients. We are going to be increasingly looking for people that can build apps and m-commerce platforms. For the production of video, agencies will be fishing in the same pool as TV production companies and creative agencies for talent.”
Agencies understand the importance of digital skills and that shortages can impact on their sector. As a result, many do offer training to staff in order to stay competitive. This training is also regarded as key for staff retention. But some are going further, engaging with schools to train the next generation of talent. For the past two years, Carat UK has run its Discover Media programme in local schools to introduce GCSE and A-level students to media. “It’s a really fulfilling value exchange for both the kids and the staff involved, and gives us a chance to find new talent that we wouldn’t have found otherwise,” said Hook. “Overall, agencies have tended to focus on competing for share of talent, rather than collaborating to maximise the size of the talent pool. We need to access larger pools of talent from different backgrounds to broaden the range of perspectives in the business.”
This article first appeared on the Media Guardian Network on 05/11/15