Digital Ad Firms Expand Staff As Market Resumes Growth

help-wantedDespite continued difficulties in the wider employment market, companies in the digital advertising sphere are aggressively recruiting talent. A plethora of vacancies across the market -on both the sales and agency side – this January suggests the slowdown of the past two years is officially over, and the market is once again returning to a healthy rate of growth.

“The market is definitely picking up again for us. Even in the worst times digital was quite active, but the trend is certainly on an upward trajectory,” commented Tim Cecere, human resources director for WPP-owned agency conglomerate GroupM. “This year compared to last year we are more aggressive, and much more aggressive than two years ago,” he added.

Digital agency R/GA lists over 60 vacancies for its New York office, 13 for its San Francisco office, and nine for its base in Chicago. Rival agency ZenithOptimedia says it chose to hire last year in an attempt to beat its competition to the talent. “We took advantage of the market and hired around 35 staff on the digital side,” said John Nitti, the company’s SVP and Managing Director of integrated planning. “We have about 12 or 15 vacancies open right now, and we’re also focusing on staff retention.”

GroupM claims it too is hiring ahead of the curve, as it anticipates continued growth in the digital ad space. “Investing in digital is at the forefront of our thinking. We’re willing to bet ahead of the curve on it, while on the traditional side we’re cautious and hire more in relation to client needs,” said Cecere. “In digital we’re willing to shore up our staff because digital talent is still hard to find.”

Both Cecere and Nitti said the experience they look for in potential staff is changing as the market continues to evolve, particularly in relation to the continued rise of data-informed buying and the convergence of offline and online channels. “It’s clear to us that data and analytics are going to be a leading factor in how we do business going forward. Graduates with majors in stats or mathematics-related subjects are very important to us. It’s all about data, analytics, and insights,” said Cecere.

Nitti echoed that sentiment, explaining that ZenithOptimedia is increasingly looking for recruits with experience in dealing with ad exchanges and demand side platforms, and other biddable media such as search platforms.

Despite the range of opportunities available, both men also suggested there’s a lack of suitable candidates to fill the roles, which is resulting in a war of retention. “We’re always focused on retention, especially at the junior levels,” said Nitti. “Lots of companies are hiring, and [staff] are being thrown 10 thousand dollar increases at a time,” he explained. Cecere described similar experiences, stating, “Digital folks are very aggressive about their careers. They understand that they have a tremendous value to the agency. They’re very sure of what they want to do, and not afraid to make demands on the organization.”

Besides the agencies, however, ad vendors and technology companies appear to be expanding their staff even more rapidly. Last week Google revealed its intention to hire 6,000 new staff, 300 of which will be purely sales oriented. Adding to that, Chicago-based Groupon is currently hiring for over 50 regional sales vacancies, having secured a $950 million investment in January to fuel further expansion of its daily deals platform.

Despite operating on a smaller scale than Google and Groupon, mobile ad network Jumptap is seeking over 30 new employees, having hired 11 over the past six months. The majority of those vacancies, too, are in either sales or engineering – areas chief marketing officer Paran Johar described as “the backbone of the organization.”


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