Even people not yet involved in new media can no longer remain
ignorant of the massive global growth the industry is experiencing.
Recruitment briefs featuring online media experience as a prerequisite are
criss-crossing the nation as we speak. Television ads, in particular, seem
to have developed an involuntary tic causing them to spew web addresses at
the drop of a hat.
The scene is set for a strong and profitable relationship between
established traditional marketers and this new and exciting world of
There is, however, one small problem: we are already beginning to notice a
people shortage. Two distinct factions are emerging. The first is
internet-savvy and has interactive media experience in spades, but when it
comes to reaching customers via traditional, data-driven, offline media,
it is completely in the dark.
The second is well versed in customer relationship management and
marketing, knows exactly ’who, what, and when’ in terms of communicating
with customers offline, but doesn’t really know its Flash from its html
when it comes to new media.
Increasingly, I am being asked by my clients to find candidates with a
background in marketing combined with internet nous, as well as first-hand
experience of e-commerce. Tracking these people down is not easy, because
they’re virtually non-existent.
What is most worrying about this trend is the seeming mutual exclusivity
of the two groups. There is little information available about training in
interactive media for those who find themselves affected by its
increasingly pervasive influence on the way that companies do business.
Equally, some digital media agencies appear less than willing to take on a
traditional marketer, preferring to stick to people with proven online
The clear advantage interactive media has over the majority of other
communication channels is the way it can target customers so precisely and
gather complex data about existing and potential customers very
This is what makes it so interesting to marketers. The problem is that if
you’re looking at interactive media as a marketing channel, rather than as
a business in itself, you need to acknowledge that it is only one part of
the marketing jigsaw and must adhere to the same principles as traditional
media and complement other activity. It is here that a lack of traditional
marketing knowledge can jeopardise the usefulness of new-media work and
could damage the long-term future of the sector as it begins to assert
itself within the marketing mix.
Investment in new-media marketing is reaching astonishing levels. There is
a ’me too’ culture among many advertisers who are worried about being left
behind, but unsure of how to begin. Many also seem happy to invest in
projects using the first company that comes along. The danger is that with
the explosion of such companies, and the extraordinary levels of
speculative investment, complex projects are being placed in the hands of
companies and individuals ill-equipped to deliver the goods.
What we could be seeing, if this remains unchecked, is the beginning of a
cowboy, get-rich-quick culture. If marketers and advertisers do not
receive an adequate return on investment, or are burned by failed
campaigns, the credibility of reputable and professional digital media
specialists might be damaged. It is time to take stock. Companies looking
for these key individuals to bridge the gap between offline and online
marketing must realise that training and a more open-minded approach to
recruitment are crucial if the industry is to continue its success.
What I would like to see are genuine initiatives by both sides to address
the situation. The skills that digital media specialists can bring to
traditional marketing are clear enough. What is not acknowledged at
present is the contribution that traditional marketers can make. Skills in
customer relationship management are firmly entrenched in someone with a
solid, data-driven, below-the-line marketing background. When an online
campaign seeks to address CRM - and its ability to do so must be the
greatest appeal of interactive media - then those skills will be
The message is that the interactive media industry must seek to
professionalise its marketing skillbase. Take a serious look at what your
business is delivering in terms of its contribution to an overall
And if you are looking for someone to bridge the gap, beware of waiting
for the ideal candidate to come along. You’ll wait a long time. If the
industry wants the best people, then the industry is going to have to
Susan Howstan is associate director of Direct Recruitment.