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The shortage of digital talent in advertising

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By Brian Morrissey

It might seem like doom and gloom on the jobs front in the ad industry, but there are some who are still in demand, notably digital talent. Check out the jobs sections of shops like R/GA, AKQA, Organic and others, and you'll find dozens of openings. MDC Partners organized an Advertising Week panel to shed light on the difficulties agencies have in recruiting and retaining digital talent. The biggest problem, according to participants: Techies aren't that crazy about going to work in agency land as opposed to startups or tech giants like Google. "There's a talent pool out there, but they're in spots we're not looking," said Darren McCormick, digital agency cultural lead at Microsoft. Instead of ad schools, these app developers are as likely to learn the tricks of the trade during Mountain Dew-fueled coding sessions in dorm rooms, added Scott Belsky, CEO of creative talent network Behance. This is a problem even for the hottest of agencies. Jeff Benjamin, executive creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, said recruiting these individuals involves more than padding salaries. It's about making advertising a cool and rewarding career choice. "The question is, How do you position the agency as something exciting for these guys?" he said. Even with next-generation ad schools like Sweden's Hyper Island, agencies aren't belles of the ball. Instead, the biggest demand comes from "traditional network agencies," according to Mattias Hansson, CEO of Hyper Island, yet that's among the least appealing options to students. Benjamin spoke to us after the session (see above) about the talent shortage, how to overcome it, and what's the one question he asks everyone he interviews.