A recent headline from an industry article. But is this really news to those of us who have been working in marketing for the last 25 years?
The cyclical outsource, bring it in house, commoditise the product, outsource, bring it in house etc. adopted by many large corporate and public organisations can, over the course of time, only produce one thing – a skills gap.
It’s been coming for years. Arguably, in some parts of the industry, it’s already here. It would appear the perpetrators are finally reaping the rewards of their labours. The endless pursuit of driving costs down rather than seeking true value for money in a commercially responsible way will eventually remove a skill base. And, most importantly, the wherewithal required by agencies to provide that vital grounding which excites and develops creativity.
The meteoric rise in the use of technology across the sector has contributed to the issue. When RBH started in the mid-90s, we were worrying about whether we should buy an image setter. A narrow escape! I doubt if most people reading this even know what one is or what a vital role it played in everyday marketing life. Never mind a Cromalin proof or how to make Pantone 285 out of CMYK. Foresight is a prerequisite. Of course, it isn’t possible to predict the future, but making educated guesses as to what will take off and what will fall by the wayside is possible if we are keeping abreast of trends in our ever-changing world.
Cross-pollination is also key in maintaining a high standard of output. When it works it percolates through everything, whether by collaboration, observation or migration. Crossing over agency to client or industry specialism provider and sometimes back gives knowledge and perspective which is invaluable but needs the right environment to flourish.
We need to absorb information and knowledge from all perspectives, new and old, then be allowed to adapt, challenge and develop. Ultimately that knowledge needs to germinate somewhere and I suspect corporate land is rarely that place. Companies crave experience from recruits but rarely offer any real mechanism to provide it.
If, as an industry, we are struggling to find talent, it may well be own fault. Which is why we at RBH have always been keen advocates of training and development. In fact, I’d go further and say it’s something we’ve built our business on. We’ve always brought in school leavers, graduates and those in the early years of their careers – not just in the creative department but across the account management, digital and production departments too – and provided them with guidance and nurtured their abilities.
There is nothing cynical about it. It’s not a cost-effective means of recruitment. Quite the opposite – it takes time and effort to offer on-the-job training. Nor is it a selfish strategy. We don’t necessarily reap the rewards of our efforts, so we are hardly doing it for ourselves. We see it as our duty to the sustainability of the industry as a whole.
Like any ecosystem, a very fine balance is required for survival. Understanding the symbiotic relationship between every element is crucial to continuing evolution.
We all – whatever section of the marketing strata we occupy – have a responsibility to each other to ensure that all areas can continue to support one another. This will often involve making sure other, non-marketing functions within our organisations adopt the same responsible ethos. It isn’t weakness or being uncommercial. It is planning for the future and doing your utmost to make sure there is one. And that it is as bright and exciting as the past we’ve left behind…