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The talent pool has sprung a leak: marketing and the recruitment black hole

The CBI recently warned that the shortage of finding people with the ‘right skills’ in professional sectors such as marketing could constrain business growth over the coming year.

In today’s highly competitive world, marketing sits across every function of the business and commands a team that does likewise. A talent drain within this specialised skill set could potentially hamper the speed with which the nascent green shoots of economic recovery will come to fruition.

Challenges in every direction 

In independent research we recently commissioned, both marketing clients and agency leaders state that there are multiple challenges which all need talent and time to resolve. 

For clients, one of the key challenges is about identifying and unlocking solutions to ensure marketing delivers and drives value for their brand/business. The right talent is fundamentally at the heart of finding those solutions. But what, who, where and in what combination, is the tricky bit especially when there are so many different options to consider.  

What’s the right agency eco-model? Where do gaps exist in my existing model? Am I best placed for emerging channels based on my existing roster? Do I need a new agency or do I use existing capability? What could I bring in-house? What is best in the short term versus long term? Do I continue with project-based commercial arrangements or should locking in talent drive a retained arrangement? 

These choices all have an impact on identifying what talent is actually needed, at what level, and in what amount – a key consideration even before you consider the challenge of recruitment. Our research showed that 86 per cent of senior client and agency leaders stated that recruiting people with the right skills and attitudes is becoming harder.

The challenge for agencies 

Agencies are themselves hot houses of talent – but equally have similar concerns and challenges when recruiting talent. Almost half (45 per cent) found recruiting talent to be a pressing concern and this was not only specialist skills but senior talent too.  

With 60 per cent of marketers stating that their budgeted spend was increasing 2014 versus 2013, and on average, expecting to add 2 new agencies to their existing agency rosters, there is both an exciting opportunity and a challenge when considering talent for agency leaders.  

Continuous learning 

The other key issue, of course, is how to keep skills and knowledge up to speed given the pace of change and innovation. As an industry, we are probably more susceptible than most to falling victim to feeling outdated unless we surround ourselves with “experts” who can fast track our knowledge or application of new emerging technologies.

This struggle is even more prevalent when considering translating “new thinking” into business and marketing planning. 89 per cent of the marketing clients we interviewed agreed that whilst they were highly interested in exploiting new opportunities, few could explain how to effectively implement the right ones in to marketing solutions for their business.


The world is changing at an ever faster pace and new knowledge today is old news tomorrow. Finding great talent - who can grow, learn, adapt, probe and, most importantly, translate – whether it’s facts into insights or new technologies into customer benefits – is the real holy grail. The learning must now be continuous in order to keep pace and recruitment is by no means the final solution to the talent gap.

Kerry Glazer, CEO AAR


The AAR Research referred to study is based on telephone interviews with 200 UK CMO / Senior marketers and agency leaders. The research was designed by AAR, and the interviews were conducted by independent research company Coleman Parkes in Q1 2014.