Online Veterans Face a Dearth of Jobs

While the resurgence of interactive media has resulted in a shortage of employees to fill mid-level positions, a certain segment of industry folks are finding quite a different situation.

Many of online advertising’s most seasoned veterans report a dearth of senior openings either at interactive agencies or on the client side.

Thirteen-year interactive veteran Adam Boettiger was recently laid off by Babcock & Jenkins, a full service direct and relationship marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. Since then, he’s been looking for senior interactive marketing and business development posts, but the jobs haven’t materialized.

“So many people left the industry from 2000 to 2002 who are not coming back — real talent,” said Boettiger. “It’s sad. Why do I stay? Because it wouldn’t make sense for me to start over with zero connections when I have thousands of relationships in this industry. That and probably the nostalgia of being in it from its conception.”

Larry Everling has a similar story. Everling was director of online marketing with Nextel before the company reduced the department and handed its Web business to ChiatDayTequila and M1. Like Boettiger, he’s looked for client-side marketing jobs, without much luck.

“I’m not seeing VP of interactive marketing or VP of e-business [posts] at fill-in-the-blank advertiser,” Everling said.

The story is the same on the creative side. Ben Finkel, an agency recruiter with Roz Goldfarb Associates, said some senior creatives are feeling pressure to take mid-level roles. Individuals with experience as account creative directors are considering jobs at the art director or senior copywriter level. Finkel placed one candidate, who had at one time run his own shop, at Lowe & Partners. He’s now pulling down about $100,000 a year, half what Finkel thinks he’s worth.

“I’ve worked on big jobs,” said Finkel. “I’ve worked on ECD [executive creative director] positions. I’m just not seeing them come in…I’m seeing a lot of people who’d really be looking for account creative director [jobs]. They’ve got a decade or more under their belt, but the jobs aren’t there.”

People disagree on why there’s a lack of high-level openings. Everling posits media agencies aren’t throwing senior people at interactive because the margins are still low by comparison with traditional media. He believes clients are still struggling with how interactive marketing should fit into the organization.

In the absence of viable VP and CD-level jobs, many of interactive marketing’s old hands are sticking with consulting. Everling has run his own business, Grady Rose Consulting, for the last two years. Boettiger is doing consulting as well, and considering an entrepreneurial venture.

“In terms of what I am looking for, I view myself as a catalyst,” said Boettiger. “I am the go-to guy who can pick up the phone and make things happen at high levels very quickly… I’m looking toward the future of interactive media and being a part of making it happen, just as I was and have been for the past 13 years.”

Will he get the chance? As interactive marketing regains its credibility and begins to command more dollars, some expect seasoned Web marketers will become hotter commodities.

“If things stay healthy, we’ll get more and more senior jobs,” said Finkel.

Related reading