Agencies Know They Lack the (Tech) Skills to Pay the Bills

By Erik Oster 

A new proprietary quantitative and qualitative benchmark study conducted by smith & beta called “The State of Advertising Talent,” which analyzed responses from over 2,000 advertising agency employees across North America, EMEA, APAC and LATAM, concluded that agencies “must invest more in talent development to compete in the fast moving digital economy.”

“For far too long, agencies have relied on the acquisition of expert talent to deliver digital solutions to clients, but this approach has simply not scaled,” explained smith & beta founder Allison Kent-Smith, in a statement. “Most employees are far behind in skillsets that are generating the largest revenue opportunity. For some skill sets, more than 60% of employees rate themselves novice or ‘have no idea’ about that particular practice area.”

Among the findings are that, while 62 percent of employees report clients are asking for more advanced digital work, but over 43 percent of respondents feel inadequately prepared to provide such work. A full 55 percent of respondents described themselves as novice or below in mobile-strategy capabilities, while only 15 percent thought they were experts or semi-experts. Half of respondents described themselves as novice or below in data/KPIs measurement, while around a third of respondents described themselves that way in regards to cross-platform storytelling. 65 percent, meanwhile, described themselves as novice or below when it comes to prototyping. When it came to more general questions, half of respondents said they weren’t “fast and iterative with their ways of working” and only 7 percent felt they were exceeding client expectations.

“There are agencies that are focused on ensuring their digital capabilities and skillsets match client demand,” said Kent-Smith, citing Ogilvy & Mather as an example. “They invest in annual educational programming for staff that promotes experimentation, making, and understanding digital trends and technologies,” she added. “Cultivating a learning culture is critical to sustained innovation in the industry.”

“Digital must be at the heart of any idea we create,” added Ogilvy & Mather New York president Adam Tucker. “With new technology driving rapidly changing consumer behavior, continuous digital transformation is imperative. Two years ago we committed to putting every Ogilvy New York agency employee through a 12-week digital education series partnering with smith & beta. As a result, our people are far more digitally fluent and our ideas digitally centric. Now we’re moving this training to a client team level and seeing even greater impact.”