Nicola Merrifield
Jul 31, 2022

'Worst ever talent crisis' in media roles is stopping growth, WFA survey reveals

Staff shortages were reported by 77% of respondents in a major survey by WFA and MediaSense.

WFA and MediaSense report: failure to prioritise training and development fuelling talent loss
WFA and MediaSense report: failure to prioritise training and development fuelling talent loss

More than three-quarters of advertising professionals worldwide said they lacked media talent within their organisation, which is creating a “major blocker” for growth, new research has shown.

The joint survey of industry leaders by the World Federation of Advertisers and global advisors MediaSense found 77% were dealing with “some” or “high” scarcity of staff, with 67% stating this was an obstacle to the company’s commercial expansion.

Almost half (48%) “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the sector was in the midst of its “worst ever talent crisis”.

A lack of training and talent management is to blame, according to the vast majority of respondents – 81% of whom were at director level or above – but 61% agreed “poor client/agency behaviour” has accelerated the problems.

The WFA has warned the shortages are having a “profound impact” on the ability of clients to deliver campaigns globally.

Shortages were of most concern in agencies (85% report notable staffing gaps). For both them and advertisers – and in almost all regions – some of the hardest media roles to fill were in data and analytics (84% both agency and brand side report “some” or “high” scarcity) and in ecommerce/retail media (73% and 71%, respectively).

These two areas with the biggest skills shortages were also those that both advertisers and agencies predicted would grow most in importance over the next two years.

Meanwhile, staff working in measurement were also hard to come by (74% of agency and 69% of advertiser respondents reported “some” or “high” talent scarcity), as were those with expertise in gaming/the metaverse (65% and 73%, respectively).

=The roles ad companies had the least gaps in were those in media buying, talent management, creative, and social/influencer marketing (34-40% of respondents at advertisers warned of shortages, while 49-56% did so at agencies).

As a result of high demand for staff, there was a “growing imbalance” between candidates’ salary expectations and their skill level, according to the vast majority of the survey respondents.

The survey results, taken from 400 staff across advertisers, agencies, ad tech companies and media owners globally, were laid out in a report by the WFA and MediaSense, called Media’s Got Talent?. Respondents from advertisers are responsible for more than $110bn in annual communications spend.

Overall, the report said failing to prioritise training and talent management was largely creating the media talent shortages, with 76% of respondents agreeing these issues were behind the problems.

In addition, younger staff were finding greater “purpose” in other industries according to 68% of respondents, while over-specialisation of roles limiting career progression and the best talent moving to tech platforms were both pointed to by 58% of survey participants.

To overcome the shortages, 76% said work/life balance must be looked at, and so should talent management. Almost three-quarters of respondents said both flexible working and clarity around career progression should be a focus, and 61% said salary levels/benefits needed to be improved.

Matt Green, WFA director of global media services, said: “The talent crisis is affecting all parts of the industry and clients are feeling the pinch within their internal global media teams.

“But, as this research shows, the impact is particularly pronounced on the agency side and this is having a profound impact on the ability of clients to execute campaigns globally.”

Ryan Kangisser, managing partner at MediaSense, added: “This study comes at an important time in the industry with businesses experiencing levels of staff attrition never seen before.

“And while we remain first and foremost a people-centric business, ‘riding the wave’ is no longer a viable strategy. We know the impact this has on future growth, so it is vital that businesses start to invest in talent in a more meaningful way, ensuring they strike a better balance between specialists and all-rounders, youth and experience, expertise and attitude.”

Campaign UK

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