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New types of jobs are finally starting to appear in Advertising!

by Blair Currie on Aug 1, 2011
Change is difficult for most industries. In the case of Advertising, the Industry has resisted change and stretched its business model to the breaking point.  During this process, many critics ...

Blogger profile: Blair Currie

Senior leader with solid track record managing creative, digital and media agencies across Asia Pacific (from bases in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and Dubai), Canada and the US. Over Over 25 years experience building FMCG and Technology brands. Blair now works as VP Marketing for a global "Connected car" company.

Change is difficult for most industries. In the case of Advertising, the Industry has resisted change and stretched its business model to the breaking point.  During this process, many critics have claimed that the model is broken, Digital agencies will rule, and PR will become more important than Advertising.

These claims by the critics are proving to be untrue, because under the surface, the Advertising Industry has been hard at work adapting to the changing marketing environment. Recently, the Industry seems to be alive with new types of jobs, that have been created to deal with:

  • Digital technology’s continued growth.
  • Economic pressure from a global economic slowdown.
  • Convergence among the various marcom disciplines – creative, digital, media and PR agencies are competing more closely for the same spend. This has resulted in a struggle for the position of "Prime contractor".
  • Changing consumer behaviour.
  • Disintermediation of agencies as clients bring creative in-house and/or deal directly with production houses and media owners.

This post outlines some of the new roles that are appearing at leading Agencies:

A. Jobs within Agencies.

1.  Digital skills within Traditional Creative and Media Agencies.

“Traditional” Creative and Media Agencies continue to absorb Digital talent by hiring both individuals and acquiring “Pure play” Digital shops. In turn, the Pure play digital agencies are being pressured by clients to hire “Traditional”  talent, resulting in a convergence to full service agencies that include both Traditional and Digital solutions, under one roof.

During this evolution, the following positions have been created in a number of progressive Creative and Media Agencies:

  • Analytics Specialists – Agencies increasingly need to find ways to secure better insights from the avalanche of data.  The data comes from mobile and location-based sources, purchase data from credit cards and e-Commerce, Search, and Social. Those Agencies that invest in Analytical resources will have advantages in their ability to a.) uncover unique insights to develop better strategies and work and b.) attract new revenue streams for data analytics from research departments within client organizations (in addition to the strategy and work from marketing departments).

  • Creative Technologists – as technology opens up the avenues for developing creative, a new type of creative person is emerging – one that is at ease blending creative with technology. This blend is an important development, because until recently, it has been difficult to mix these disciplines. Creatives “speak” a certain language and Geeks “speak” another tongue. Moreover, technology people are more adept at experimenting with different options, running "A/B" tests to determine the best way forward and in working in a continuous beta" mode. Some of this thinking is now pervading traditional agencies, bringing great changes. This includes moving from The Big Idea to many ideas and by launching work and then improving upon it, the way software developers work. Finally Traditional creative agencies tend to outsource more of their work than digital agencies. With creative technologists, more work is generally done back in the Agency, giving rise to faster turn-around and sometimes higher margins because more work is done internally.

  • Data Visualization – Social Media specialists often use Data Visualization artists to add value to their Data and these types of Designers. Some of these skills are being imported into Creative Agencies.

  • Digital presence strategists. These are being hired largely by Media Agencies to ensure that client brands maintain their visibility within the rapidly changing Digital world.

  • Information Architects/User Experience specialists – these “Digital imports” are being used to shape Digital communications in Creative Agencies and their expertise also helps strengthen traditional communications, as well as the integration of all forms of communications. Increasingly these specialists are starting to work with Creative teams of Art Directors and Copywriters.

  • Social Media experts – while specialist agencies started managing Social Media, many clients are now bringing this function in house, hiring the people form social media specialists, and simultaneously reducing the funds available for outside partners. In turn, the Social Media Agencies are starting to reposition themselves as Research Houses that analyze consumer buzz for Insights and/or Creative Shops that better visualize data and develop creative solutions.

2.  Creative agencies

Creative Agencies are importing both Digital and Media Agency skills by hiring or partnering with specialists from these disciplines. This trend is being accelerated by leading marketers such as P&G, that are returning to a Prime Agency, Prime Contractor, or a “Brand Agency Leader” model.

The reason for this new consolidation of power within a Prime Agency, is that Clients are also facing increased pressure to cut marketing costs.  It takes resources to manage a network of agencies and clients want to reduce this cost. They are doing so by regional consolidations, reducing staff and outsourcing part of their co-ordination costs to Lead Agencies.

In turn, Creative Agencies are also bringing on board specialists for:

  • Content Strategy and Production – Clients are asking Agencies to manage more than their Traditional Marketing Communications and with the advances of digital there is a need to keep content “fresh”, making brands more visible to search engines. As a result, agencies are again becoming more influential in overall content strategy and the production thereof. While this role is naturally involved with the Creation of new content, increasingly it is also helping clients with the Curation of content.

  • Crowdsourcing – there are a number of agencies that draw upon the “Crowd” to source their creative work. Some of these use Crowdsourcing to supplement their current creative teams drawing on website such as Crowdspring, Genius Rocket and Pop Tent.  Others are agencies build totally on crowdsourcing including Victors & Spoils.  Crowdsourcing will elevate the role of the Creative Director(s) and may reduce the number of in-house creatives.

  • Innovation labs – Agencies increasingly need to stay on top of the many changes in digital and media, so leading shops such as BBH, Ogilvy, and TBWA\ are opening up innovation labs to raise the standard of their work.  These labs were first established on a global level in innovation hubs such as Los Angeles or London. But they have since spread to regional hubs around the world, including Singapore and Hong Kong.

  • Master Planners – as the strategic planning function in creative agencies reflects more the “Voice of the consumer” and is increasingly responsible for the ROI of the marketing communications, strategic or brand planners are expanding their skill sets to include Communications Planning imported largely from media agencies and Digital Planning. In short they are becoming “Master planners”.

  • Platform Producers – more agency briefs require audience participation in the forms of co-creation, entertainment, games, information, inter-active, and ongoing dialogue. These schemes are all designed to encourage consumers and customers to spend more time with the brand. Pioneers in this field are consulting and/or becoming part of the agency’s creative teams.

  • Search engine marketing – Copywriters are working more closely with Search specialists to understand the language consumers and customers use when searching products. Their collaboration helps align creative copy with the language the audience themselves use.

  • Video producers – Creative Agency producers are increasingly requested to produce Web and Mobile Content in addition to the Television commercials they produce. This is very detailed work because it digital content is often tested to see which version performs best and is changed more frequently. As a result, creative agencies need video producers to help with the increased demands of digital video.

The specific departments within Creative Agencies are also changing, including:

  • Account Service The Account Service function is starting to take on more functions of a Production Department, where account people are charged with finding more ways to manage the increasing Marketing Communications needs of clients, including, but well beyond, Advertising. This includes external and internal content, maximizing “Owned media” and integrating the various specialists that Clients had previously managed. Further, as a number of Clients move from retainer-based relationships to more project-based relationship with Agencies, client service people need to take on more Project Management skills to help Agencies remain profitable.

  • Strategic Planning. Some of the biggest changes in marketing communications are being felt in the Strategic Planning areas of both Creative and Media agencies because there job plays into what the market requires most today, including the “Voice of the consumer” and being responsible for a positive ROI on marketing communications. That said, some of the difference in planning roles include: a.) Communications Planning within creative agencies  - traditional creative agencies such as San Francisco’s Goodby Silverstein and Partners are bringing comms planners to help shore up the “When” and “Where” parts of planning, in addition to the “What” and “How” parts that creative agencies normally cover. b.) Fringe planning – this is done by Anomaly and BBH where a number of agencies are taking product ideas to market, or essentially beginning to compete with clients.c.) Propagation planning – as marketers are finding that stories told by others are more impactful than those told by brands, a new branch of planning, pioneered by Naked Communications, is emerging.

3. Media agencies

Some leading Media Agencies are looking to hire both Creative Agency people to improve their salesmanship and client management skills, as well as acquiring people from Digital agencies.

The new roles that have been created include:

  • Communications Orchestrators  - A number of Media agencies have tried to become Prime Contractors in leading brands. Carat has done this with P&G in the US and Naked positions itself this way around the world.

  • Creative Media Specialists – some large media holding companies such as OMG are setting up specialist units to improve the creativity of their media product. A good example of this is OMD Ignition Factory. These creative media specialists are also helping drive a convergence among the media, digital and creative agencies for innovation and are heating up the race to become the Brand Agency Lead.

  • Demand side specialists – as mobile becomes more important media buyers learning to deal with automated buying platforms, changing the way they purchase digital media.

  • Geotargeting – with the rise on mobile and location based technologies media planners and buyers will increasingly need to factor geography into their media plans and buys. As mobile gains more traction this is giving rise to geotargeting specialists.

  • Social and Earned media – media agencies are learning to expand their roles from bought media to better dealing with owned and earned media. To deal with “earned media” they are learning to present “media donuts” meaning media that has an empty centre for consumer or customer presentation.

B. Jobs supporting agencies

Digital training

A number of specialist shops have been set up to train advertising and marketing people in digital skills. These shops include:


As Marketing continues to evolve it’s clear that new roles and positions will be required within Advertising Agencies. Traditional practitioners will have to learn new tricks from technologists and other types of new talent, resulting in “Help wanted” ads for new positions as well.

Given the multiple challenges facing the Advertising Industry, it's likely we're only at the beginning of a long process of upgrading and adding to the skills of Advertising Agencies.



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