Opinion - No one has 10 years’ e-commerce experience.

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.

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

online media.



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

experience.



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

quickly.



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

invaluable.



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

marketing campaign.



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

create them.



Susan Howstan is associate director of Direct Recruitment.



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