Direct marketers to see less Q3 hiring

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Direct and digital marketers will face a mixed job market in coming months, according to agency executives and a direct marketing employment survey.

Nearly four in 10 (39%) companies said they plan to add marketing staff during the third quarter of 2010, 4% less than this year's second quarter, according to a survey from Bernhart Associates Executive Search. Twenty-three percent of respondents said their company is in a hiring freeze, up 3% from the previous quarter, while 6% of respondents said they are planning layoffs this quarter, twice the percentage of the spring survey.

“It's all about confidence,” said Jerry Bernhart, principal of Bernhart Associates, a recruitment firm specializing in direct marketing.

“There has been a growing list of indicators showing the economy is slowing down. We all see it in the headlines,” he said. “So the mood has been influenced by a number of things — persistently high unemployment, and, obviously, housing.”

Bernhart noted that in the second quarter of 2009 only 16% of firms said they were hiring.

However, some agency executives contacted by DMNews said they are actively hiring. Grant Johnson, president and CEO of Johnson Direct, said his Brookfield, WI-based agency, which downsized last year, plans to add two marketers immediately and could hire as many as 10 in the coming months.

“We went through a correction last year — a right-sizing, whatever you want to call it — which was a good move. Yet right now, we're just very, very busy,” he said. “As the economy continues to stagnate, people need advertising and marketing that's going to produce measurable results.” Johnson added that his firm is seeing the most new business in insurance, its busiest vertical, as well as b-to-b manufacturing.

The employment outlook, however, is improving for skilled analysts, SEM and SEO managers, affiliate and relationship managers, e-mail marketing managers and b-to-b marketers in general, Bernhart added.

Representatives from 419 organizations responded to Bernhart Associates' survey between June 29 and July 12.

“I think what [b-to-b companies] are doing is they are catching up [to b-to-c firms] because last year it was the opposite,” he said. “Things really hit bottom in Q1 and Q2 of last year.

When we came out of that, during the second half of 2009, b-to-c was outpacing b-to-b in a big way in job recovery.”

The survey's findings are consistent with national general employment trends. The US unemployment rate for June was 9.5%, down slightly from May's 9.7%. However, jobless claims reached their highest point since February in July.

There are no signs that the digital and direct marketing industries will see significant job growth before the end of this year, Bernhart added. Of the companies that said they are in a hiring freeze, two-thirds said they did not know when the freeze will end.

Jeff Cleary, managing director at Catalyst, said his agency is trying to fill four to six openings, largely on the digital side of the business. He added that most are newly created positions at the agency, which rebranded from Catalyst Direct earlier this year.

“The digital side of the business is growing very rapidly,” Cleary said. “A few years ago, it was about 17% of our business. Now it's almost 45% of our business.”

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