Marketing Briefing: With agencies and brands hiring at the same time there’s now a ‘war for talent’

senior talent needed

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Retaining talent isn’t a new problem for agencies — there have been reports on a talent exodus in the industry for the last decade — but lately it’s reached a more fevered pitch. If you ask marketers or agency execs to characterize the current job market for employers you’ll hear some version of how “brutal” it currently is or that it’s “wild” trying to hire someone for an open position now.  

There are myriad reasons. In recent months, agencies have been working to hire staff back or staff up to meet demands from new clients or increasing client budgets only to find that hiring is even more difficult now, according to agency execs, who say it’s highly competitive. Many agencies as well as brands building in-house teams up again are hiring so there are more options for talent that might have traditionally gravitated toward agencies. 

“You have to move really fast in recruiting now,” said Brendan Gahan, partner and chief social officer at Mekanism. “Way faster than any other time I’ve seen. Because, if someone is looking, odds are they’ve got multiple offers.” 

At the same time, some employees have reevaluated their lives. Some have decided to freelance rather than work full-time for one shop to maintain a work-life balance as well as choose who they work with. Others have opted to go to brands or to leave the industry altogether making it harder for agencies to find candidates, according to a copywriter who said his agency is having a hard time hiring for open positions. 

“There is now a war for talent,” noted Duane Brown, founder of performance marketing shop Take Some Risk, of the competitive nature of hiring now. “There are not enough talented people to do all this work [with lots of agencies and brands hiring]. This means employees can now be picky about where they work. They are not forced to stay in a role where they are being forced back into the office when they want to stay remote.” 

With the ball being in the employees’ court, so to speak, it’s possible that it could be a “forced wake up call” for the industry, explained advertising industry recruiter Christie Cordes, adding that the instability of the industry in recent years coupled with employees not feeling valued has led to this moment. 

“Being reactive to a decades-old problem is not good for business,” said Keni Thacker, founder of 100 Roses from Concrete, a network for men of color in advertising, adding that the open job market has employees evaluating agencies’ culture and heading to work for places with a “better culture” than settle. “Now they have a bunch of open jobs junior all the way up to senior [roles] they can’t fill. And they are afraid to stick to the old ways because they know that’ll be counterproductive to their DEI promises.”

3 Questions With Krystal CMO Alice Crowder

How is the marketing team preparing for a post-pandemic society as many venture back outside?

We’re here for our guests, just as we’ve always been — in an expanded number of ways. One of the things we know about our brand is that guests equate it with a little bit of fun, a little bit of joy.  People are hungry for that little bit of joy right now — we see it in our own teams and families as strongly as we see it in guest behavior. Whether people come back into our lobbies or continue to come through drive-through or get their favorites delivered, we’re working to provide them with the freshest, most cravable joy we can, and our marketing is all about reminding guests of that fact.  We’re focusing on product, and the differentiated nature of our product, with new, vibrant imagery and partnerships that play into the fun we know our guests like to have while enjoying the best damn slider out there.

What does a return to the office (if there is one) look like for the Krystal’s marketing team?

We’re back three days a week, and remote the other two. The way people work has evolved during this pandemic, and we value the benefits we’ve all gained from learning to work differently. We don’t want to lose them, and so for now have decided to continue to work from home a couple of days a week.  As much as we value the benefits of working from home, there are drawbacks as well — collaboration and innovation just don’t happen as easily via Zoom as they do in person. By keeping both platforms alive in our schedules, we get the best of both … and so do our guests.

How is the team keeping creative juices flowing while keeping burnout at bay?

That’s a tough one, isn’t it?  For us, being a brand that delivers joy and fun via menu items means that it’s important for us to actually experience joy and fun.  We have creative meetings over tastings, or take a few breaks in highly structured meetings. We bring in new people to our process — partner chefs or creatives from our agencies or even folks from other departments — to help us look at things a little more differently. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

As the third-party cookie continues to crumble, marketers are scrambling to find consumer tracking alternatives in first-party data. Here, marketers have started asking for identifiers like emails and phone numbers. It seems promising enough. But as the war for third-party data winds down, is the one for personal data just getting started? 

New research from data platform Invisibly reveals that consumers want more control over their data and how it is used. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 70% of respondents don’t want companies tracking them for marketing purposes.
  • 44% of respondents said that they use an ad blocker to prevent companies from targeting them. Only 6% of people said they don’t use an ad blocker because they like ads targeted to them.
  • 75% surveyed said they “like” the idea of companies needing their consent to track them. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“If the old saying ‘Work hard. Play hard’ is embraced, employees need to take advantage of the vacation days offered to rest and recharge. … It’s a positive sign that we’re having these conversations as we’re not the only industry reconciling with the accelerated pace of work and expectations due to remote working.”

— Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO of the 4A’s told marketing reporter Kimeko McCoy when asked about one company’s plan to close shop for a week to give all of its employees a true vacation.

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