Agencies are struggling to recruit, and this is just the beginning!

Since 2021, job offers in marketing, and more specifically in digital advertising, have been growing steadily. But why is this? Well, it is down to the rapid digitalisation of the population and the ever-increasing need for communication. However, while Gen Z is considered the digital generation, recruiters are struggling to find qualified profiles. How can this phenomenon be explained? What are the solutions to remedy the talent shortage in digital agencies? DeepReach breaks down the problem.

Mathilde Prouchandy
Published on
May 24, 2022
by
Mathilde Prouchandy
10
min. read time
Agencies are struggling to recruit, and this is just the beginning!

The need for digital talent has accelerated over the past two years

In the digital world, the need for talent has exploded. There are several reasons for this trend, which is likely to become even more apparent.

A highly digitalised context

Since the advent of e-commerce, jobs in the digital world have been changing at a rapid pace. This is due to the fact that consumers are buying more and more online. According to Visionary Marketing, the annual turnover of online commerce will be worth more than 120 billion euros in 2021. This amount is growing by 15% every year and is not expected to decrease. In order to meet all the needs of brands, advertisers therefore need to recruit more talent.

The impact of COVID-19

It is worth noting that the COVID-19 crisis has only served to amplify this phenomenon. Indeed, during the pandemic, some companies were saved by their websites. They realised the importance of certain skills in the field, particularly in online advertising. Since then, more and more brands are calling on digital agencies, as acknowledged by Nathalie, recruiter at Digirocks:

"Since COVID-19, the market has changed a lot. Online sales have increased enormously. Companies that had already started their digital transformation have had to really speed up. E-commerce is a major issue for the growth of many companies. Nowadays, you have to have your own website, master the whole supply chain up to traffic acquisition, know who your consumer is...".

Jobs in short supply

Despite strong demand, digital agencies are struggling to recruit. Generally speaking, the shortage of digital jobs was already evident before the crisis, but the trend has intensified. All agency human resources directors are well aware of the jobs that are in short supply:

  • developers;
  • data analysts;
  • CRM;
  • media traders;
  • traffic manager ;
  • product owner and UX-related professions; 
  • cybersecurity.

Despite this shortage, French Tech players have raised a record amount of money in 2021: almost 12 billion euros. This means that many jobs will be opening up in 2022 and in the years to come: start-ups are planning to offer19,000 jobs. How are they going to do this in a sector that is already under great pressure? And above all, how can this shortage be explained?

Why do agencies find it difficult to recruit?

Demands, salaries, quality of life at work... There are many factors that accentuate the difficulties in recruiting digital talent.

A demanding and fast-growing sector

Access to the advertising market is now simpler thanks to the tools available to everyone and the number of advertisers has thereby continued to grow. According to a study by Kantar, there will be 42,735 advertisers in France in 2021, 2% more than in 2020 and 9% more than in 2019.

Faced with the growing demand of brands and technological advances, advertisers and agencies are increasingly demanding. Finding profiles with the required expertise is becoming a real challenge. Some jobs require rare technical and specific skills.

Nathalie from Digirocks emphasises this point:

"We are being asked for traffic managers or media traders who know the different acquisition levers: SEA, Social Ads, display and programmatic and who are immediately operational. However, finding a traffic manager with 2 years' experience who has a good grasp of Social Ads is not so easy today. There is a real shortage of talent. At the same time, we see agencies specialising in different acquisition levers, so it's very difficult to find a traffic manager who knows all of these levers in detail.”

Lack of trust in young graduates

Agencies often favour senior profiles. However, in times of shortage, recruiters cannot afford to wait for the perfect profile. The best strategy is to hire people with the right soft skills and then train them.

Clément Boucher, Key Account Manager at La Relève, shares his views on the subject:

"Above all, we have to learn to trust the candidates, especially young graduates. They have little experience, but they are interested and motivated. If the market were flooded with candidates, we could afford to be demanding. But this is not the case. You have to trust them and train them! It is important to know how to support them in their initial development phase.”

Significant turnover

All agencies, particularly in the digital sector, are witnessing a significant turnover in their workforce. According to IAB France, "[...]the lifespan of an employee in the company varies between 2 and 4 years for 57%of respondents and between 1 and 2 years for 20%."

- According to the recruiters interviewed, there are several reasons for this:

  • low wages;
  • the lack of prospects fordevelopment;
  • a high-pressure job;
  • a lack of purpose.

- According to Nathalie from Digirocks, salary remains the main cause of turnover:

"Today, young people stay in a job for two years and then they leave. They want to evolve. They need challenges. If they think they've done their job, they want to change companies and be paid more. And that's normal: with two years' experience, they'll be offered 45K or much more. We know that they are very well trained in media agencies."

Moreover, according to the recruiters interviewed, the prospects for development are real. Juniors can quickly become managers, data project managers or even advertisers, which can lead them to change companies.

- As far as young graduates are concerned, Clément Boucher explains that low salaries are holding back candidates:

"Today, it is difficult, if not impossible, to attract a young graduate for less than 35-40K. Some agencies offer remuneration packages that are totally disconnected from the new aspirations and expectations of media traders.”

Higher education out of step with market reality

Digital professions, such as media traders, require very specific skills. However, in France, the higher education system is lagging behind when it comes to these professions. Universities, for example, do not properly train digital marketing experts, unlike public schools, because they do not offer work-study programmes for professionalisation.

In business schools, students carry out their assessments in project mode from degree level onwards. This situation recreates the professional environment and encourages students to think differently. The work-study system also allows students to acquire skills. Young graduates from private business schools are therefore more likely to be recruited, thanks to their higher skillset. They can also be hired at the end of their work-study contract or internship.

However, business schools tend to dissociate classical marketing and digital marketing, whereas today, marketing and communication are largely based on digital. However, there are qualitative training centres for becoming a media planner like Oreegami (bootcamp) and VISIPLUS Academy.

The continuous emergence of new tools and technologies

In the world of digital marketing, jobs are constantly changing. This is largely due to the constant arrival of new tools that must be integrated and mastered as quickly as possible.

According to Frédéric Douchement, Media trader and CSM at DeepReach, the media trader's job is constantly evolving:

"You have to adapt to the latest media: they can change and evolve to become more and more efficient. There are also changes from a legal point of view with the CNIL or the RGPD. You have to constantly monitor the situation. This is a very important job, because the market is constantly changing. The media adapt to the laws first while continuing to strive to become more efficient."

 

With such constant and rapid evolution, it is difficult to recruit profiles that master all of the various tools.

How to deal with the talent shortage in digital marketing?

There are a number of ways to make the most of a particularly challenging environment.

 

Review the organisation of digital agencies

Continuing to try to hire profiles that master all the digital marketing levers in a context of a talent shortage is not necessarily doomed to failure, however, if the agencies implement the necessary tools.

For example, media traders spend a lot of time analysing and reporting on campaigns. This is why it is necessary to have a data engineer who will take charge of analytics, collect the needs of each media trader and rationalise the production of reporting interfaces both internally and with clients. Analytics tools such as Google Data Studio, Tableau, Microstrategy or Supermetrics can be used to"productise" the analytics function, leaving media traders free to focus on campaign optimisation.

Other platforms also help to increase productivity, manage social network activity (Buffer), SEO (SEM Rush, Ahref...), video or visual assets management.

The management of local campaigns, which require a lot of operational effort, can also be addressed with platforms such as DeepReach that reduce the set-up and optimisation time of campaigns based on location targeting.

Agency managers therefore need to understand how SaaS enables their teams to be more productive, which in turn has a direct impact on the recruitment and retention of teams who are better equipped to deal with the amount of work that lies ahead.

Review learning and training methods

Learning about advertising at school, continuous training in companies... How do you go about acquiring the necessary skills?

Education

In general, in order to overcome the lack of talent in the world of digital advertising, certain aspects of the educational system should be changed. The creation of new specialised schools such as 42 (a school for developers) where practice takes precedence over everything else would enable the talents of tomorrow to be properly trained.

- According to Leila Ouissi, Senior Trader at Publicis, this type of training is proving successful:

"Some of our recruits come from Oreegami, a new-generation training organisation. They do a one-year work-study programme and if it is successful, we hire them on a permanent basis. Generally, we are satisfied with the programme. The students are taught on the various platforms by real experts.”

- Armand Faure, CEO of Puls, agrees:

We are seeing that schools are evolving and this is a good thing. The success of the Germinal antechamber is a good example of success. Accompanying students by offering practical advertising training adapted to the needs of agencies and companies must be the leitmotiv of schools. We must continue to move in this direction to overcome this shortage of qualified workers.”

In-company training

By offering in-house training, digital agencies will not only retain their employees, but will also enable them to develop their skills. Thanks to this training structure, they will also be able to specialise and respond better to the needs of the agency. 

Major advertising companies such as Google and Meta offer online training in digital marketing. Here are some digital workshops offered by Google:

  • Reaching your audience on mobile;
  • Optimising and protecting your online campaigns;
  • Google Ads for advertising on the Display Network; 
  • Etc.

Focus on soft skills

In addition to technical skills, it is becoming essential to focus on personal skills (or soft skills), especially in a context where the choice of candidates remains limited. And for good reason, these qualities demonstrate a know-how that is essential in a company. Generally speaking, candidates with the required soft skills are able to rise to the top rather quickly. Today, these interpersonal qualities are increasingly sought after by recruiters.

 

- Leila Ouissi shares her experience:

"We recruit mainly on soft skills and not really on diplomas. Our recruitment process is based more on trust. The important thing is that you possess soft skills. It's a way of giving a chance to other people who don't necessarily come from the industry.”

"Most of the time, new recruits don't know much about the job. We train them for the first few months and provide them with support so that they quickly develop their skills and become independent.”

 

- Clément Boucher from La Relève also testifies to the importance of soft skills in recruitment:

"Soft skills are extremely important. A person who doesn't have all the criteria at first glance on their CV, but with whom we can build a relationship, is much more interesting than someone who has everything we ask of them, but who is closed to learning.”

The soft skills most sought after by recruiters for agency positions are curiosity, autonomy, proactivity, creativity and adaptability.

Attract and retain the best profiles

To retain talent, it is more necessary than ever to provide an attractive corporate culture. And for good reason, employees are becoming increasingly picky about their work environment and management style. The creation of Instagram accounts such as Balance Your Agency has helped to free expression around 'toxic’management in communications agencies.

Qualified profiles are therefore more likely to be attracted to an agency that is flexible in terms of management (working hours, teleworking,etc.) and that also offers a multitude of benefits, such as a higher salary and more time off. Internal mobility for a career perspective is another argument for retaining talent.

Candidates are also looking for meaning, especially Gen Z. To reconcile this generation with the world of communication, which is founded on consumerism, it is becoming essential to apply an ethical and eco-responsible approach. Agencies must work on and enhance their employer brand. Many initiatives for an eco-responsible approach to communication have been launched, such as The Great Reset.. Launched by Purpose Disruptors, a network of advertisers, the initiative reflects the growing interest in a more sustainable and responsible system in the sector.

Encourage a diversity of profiles

In France, digital agencies tend to hire profiles straight out of top schools. However, it is essential not to hesitate to aim for greater diversity. Many qualified profiles do not necessarily come from reputable schools. Nevertheless, even if they come from universities or do not have amaster's degree, some have been trained on the job and have a very good grasp of the subject.

Women are also much less present in tech than men: in 2020, the share of women in digital was 17%. However, they represent a huge potential. To address the talent shortage in digital agencies and to achieve parity, agencies need to recruit and train more women.

To sum up, digital agencies need to make changes in order to overcome the shortage of profiles. To do this, they can focus on internal training, encourage internal mobility, but also rework the employer brand and offer more attractive remuneration. Generally speaking, it is becoming necessary to democratise access to digital jobs and to create more training courses for jobs in short supply.

 

If digital agencies do not make fundamental changes to the way they recruit, train and manage their teams, they will continue to face the same difficulties and miss out on top talent. This will inevitably result in a loss of efficiency and profitability. The time to act is now!

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