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Marketing Briefing: As brands reassess in-housing needs, the war for talent with agencies nearing détente

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The so-called “war for talent” may be cooling off between agencies and brands. That’s not to say it’s easy to hire for an open position now – agency execs say it can still be difficult to find the right candidate – but that the competition between brands and agencies for the same talent pool may not be as acute. 

Some say the pendulum is swinging back from brands looking to build out their in-house teams to working with agencies more now. There are a few reasons driving this trend: The complexities of the current ad landscape, especially post-iOS 14, has brands looking for more guidance as well as help with attribution issues. At the same time, keeping up with the content needed to fill social channels, particularly TikTok, as social is the mouthpiece for brand messaging as consumers spend time there, can be a drain for talent who say they don’t get enough resources on in-house teams. Brands are also looking to tighten their belts now to deal with the looming recession so they aren’t as keen as they had been to fill open roles. 

“There’s always an ebb and flow between agency and in-house,” explained a CMO for a DTC brand who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Pre-iOS 14, it was moving more in-house. Now there’s movement back toward agencies. Agencies have more access to information across clients. Easier to weather storms, deal with the lack of information [due to privacy changes], which is what we’re seeing now from an attribution standpoint, with an agency.” 

The CMO isn’t alone in sensing a shift of work moving back toward agencies rather than brands growing in-house. Other agency execs as well as in-house employees say they are seeing a similar shift. One in-house agency exec noted that there were several open creative positions on their team that the company decided not to fill given the current market downturn as well as the ad landscape. That company is now looking for an agency to help fill those gaps. 

“The last two-and-a-half years the talent pool has been smaller,” said Zach Stuck, founder of Homestead Studio, a performance marketing agency, adding that finding experienced talent for the agency had been more competitive. However, he added, “in the last three months, we’ve started to see a swing in the opposite direction.” Some brand owners have reached out to Stuck to say they are tightening their belts, laying off staff and looking to work with agencies. Stuck has been able to “scoop up a few talented people” because of that shift. 

While brands are potentially making the shift from in-house to agencies for a number of reasons, some in-house talent is also looking to make the same move as the expectations of an in-house role can be overwhelming, according to agency and brand sources. 

“They are not only finding it difficult to recruit and find talent but they are finding it difficult in keeping that talent in an understaffed environment,” said ad industry recruiter Christie Cordes. 

That said, while agencies may not be competing with brands as much for talent in the current hiring climate, some say the talent war of the last year or so has changed salary expectations. Former in-house staffers are looking for higher salaries than some agencies were offering.

With a détente in the offing, getting those higher in-house salaries may be more difficult now.

3 Questions With Elicia Greenberg, vp of membership and programs for the Advertising Club of New York

The Advertising Club of New York’s AD People of the Year awards took place in-person last week for the first time since the pandemic started. How’s that feel?

It’s wonderful and so important to be back together in-person again. We’re a community organization and, while we were tethered virtually through our virtual Clubhouse during all of this, you can’t substitute the in-person of community to virtual.

Has it been difficult to market an awards program amid the pandemic?

Marketing a live awards program within a pandemic environment certainly is a challenge. The question became: are we going to be allowed to have more people show up in-person? In terms of being agile and ready for that and having been on a two year in-person hiatus, having dealt with all of the challenges that we were faced with, we had to reevaluate how we marketed it on an ongoing basis. This year’s award criteria was not only just marketing prowess, it was also about what happened and how these marketers navigated through the pandemic.

So the pandemic has changed what you’re looking for?

For this year, resilience and the ability to shine at this seismic time in our lives [was key]. These people were talented before the challenges of everything that we’re faced with socially, physically, personally, professionally. — Julian Cannon

By the Numbers

Social commerce has swelled in the last few years thanks to the digital boom of 2020. While the U.S. has yet to catch up to Asia in terms of the popularity of live shopping, a new report from digital-first marketing agency MRM Commerce and influencer marketing platform Mavrck shows that it’s well on its way. As the space grows, influencers and creators are eager to capitalize on the movement. Find a breakdown of the report below: 

  • 86% of survey respondents said they are ready and willing to partner to create branded live shopping content. 
  • Out of the content creators who had participated in live shopping, over 65% identified Instagram as their preferred platform for go-live capabilities. 
  • 59% of those who responded to the survey said “how-tos” and tutorials were the most compelling content for live shopping. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the Week

“People are too afraid of missing revenue targets to pull back. There’s more pressure on performance though. For us, it’s just been operationally stressful. Lots more last-minute meetings being called, audits on performance, throwing out strategies and going back to the strategy that people used last year.”

An advertising exec who requested anonymity on why despite recession worries some clients aren’t pulling back on ad spending.

What We’ve Covered

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