Agencies place focus on digital hires

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Agencies place focus on digital hires
Agencies place focus on digital hires

Marketing agencies are hiring digital staffers at an unprecedented rate, building out their digital creative, management and support units to answer clients' needs and better position themselves for future business. Arnold Worldwide improved its interactive capabilities in late March by hiring a team of top digital staff from Modernista, including Matt Howell, Sebastian Gard and Bob Goodman, who will each take on top digital executive roles at the agency. Arnold has nearly doubled the size of its digital staff in the past year. 

"We are doing something that I think is fairly unique in the industry — we are hiring ahead of revenue. Normally, what you will see is that when an agency wins business or has an open job, they will hire for key positions," said Andrew Benett, CEO of Arnold Worldwide, who added that the firm is making "pretty big bets" on the future ubiquity of digital marketing.

"The team at Modernista had been doing some of the best digital work in the business, really using digital as an engaging element for whatever the clients' business needs are," said Benett. "That is how we are doing digital, not just as another arm to creative, but as a core competency of the company." 

Agencies are emphasizing digital hires because the intense nature of 
online client work requires it. 

Brad Rosenberg, manager of digital strategy and marketing at CKE Restaurants, a 72 and Sunny client, said brands are interacting with their agencies' digital staffs as much as their own coworkers to respond to the constant stream of conversation with customers that digital provides. "I sit and talk to the agency probably more than I do to my internal coworkers," he said.

Benett said by the end of this year, one-third of the agency's employees will be digitally focused or "digital hybrids," which he defines as staffers with experience in both digital and traditional marketing.

"I am much more interested in finding people who have worked across a range of disciplines instead of one," he said. "Having that capability is the future of the business. I don't think you're going to find successful agencies in the future that have the majority of their workforce in one given area." 

However, hiring and keeping digital staff members is a difficult task for agencies because they are competing with companies from other industries for the same talent, noted Tom Bedecarre, CEO of AKQA. 

"It's hard to find good talent, and salaries are under pressure," he said. "Everyone is growing — not just the agencies but also the media companies. So Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter are all hiring."

Rebekah Jeffries, director of interactive production at 72 and Sunny, noted that her agency has grown its digital staff by hiring digital creative personnel, as well as support employees, such as architects, interactive producers and technology developers.


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