Sojern APAC MD Russell Young answers: does the marketing industry have a marketing problem?

Russell Young, managing director of Sojern APAC

Attracting and retaining talent in an era of exponential change is a global challenge, but in a region as fragmented as Asia Pacific, it becomes even more interesting.

The opportunities do outweigh the challenges of course, so how can the industry make sure it’s future-ready from a people point of view?

Sojern managing director, Asia Pacific, Russell Young answers The Drum’s regular Q&A, in which industry leaders, new talent and everyone in between, will cast their opinions on whether the marketing industry has, when talent is concerned, got its own marketing problem.

Do you think young people want to work in the marketing industry now?

Yes, absolutely. It’s a very exciting time to be working in the programmatic advertising industry, especially with studies predicting that programmatic ad spend in both China and Japan will surpass the UK this year. At Sojern, for instance, we are hiring across the globe at all levels. There are a lot of jobs to be filled, and also, millennials seem to be attracted by both the fast pace and the opportunities for growth in the advertising technology space.

Are marketing businesses, or the marketing functions of businesses, retaining talent enough?

Marketing functions, like any role, are as attractive as companies choose to make them. Companies retain talent. Those that invest the resources into growing and developing their talent, as well as build a strong culture, will retain their talent over the long haul. We’ve been awarded and recognised for our culture, and our high retention rates are reflective of this.

Our industry, generally, was so US-centric up until a few years ago. Many digital companies treated APAC as an outpost, and kept certain functions, like marketing, data science and engineering, or senior level positions, in the US. With the growth in programmatic spend, this is definitely changing, and companies are investing serious time and resources to ensuring that the top talent is hired and retained in the region. We’re just playing a bit of catch up.

What issues do you think are creating talent shortages? Where are the shortages?

I think it’s a bit of the fact that companies, particularly if they are headquartered in the US or Europe, as struggling to fill positions that weren’t traditionally based in APAC. According to the Manpower Group’s Talent Shortage Survey, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong are 3 of the top 5 countries where employers are having the most difficulty filling roles.

Now, I haven’t recruited in Japan or Taiwan so I can’t speak for these countries, but I can speak for Hong Kong and also Singapore, which has a reputation for being difficult to recruit in. Both are markets which have undergone rapid growth, and perhaps Singapore is experiencing what Hong Kong went through several years earlier. An explosion of ad tech companies in the region, coupled with overseas companies establishing local offices, further shrinks that already limited talent pool.

Do you think the marketing industry has a marketing problem?

More like a PR problem, actually. We are pretty good at ‘marketing’ ourselves, but there are certain aspects of our industry that get a bad reputation (for legitimate reasons) and, while we’re all concerned about fixing the problems, once we do fix the problems, we don’t do enough to correct the perceptions, as well.

What can and should be done about it?

Well, take, for instance, the recent advertiser backlash YouTube experienced when it was revealed that certain ads were showing on decidedly unsavory websites. Hundreds of large advertisers pulled or paused their YouTube ads, everyone talked about the “evils of programmatic” for a couple of weeks, and then we all moved on, while Alphabet’s quarterly earnings were barely affected by the incident. In the aftermath, we are all left with a bitter aftertaste.

What we should be doing is talking - publicly, openly - about what we are all doing to ensure that our customers’ ads are not showing on these inflammatory websites, and what we could be doing better and more of. Sojern, for instance, has two additional layers of brand protection that we can apply at the customer’s request, on top of the one that is included with our services. We really are doing everything we can do - but there’s no transparency in the supply chain, and that’s something that we should all be pushing for.

Read PHD’s Susana Tsui, Ultimate Asset’s James Lyon and other leaders views on the topic from previous weeks.

If you are attending Ad Week Asia, you can see TBWA\’s Philip Brett, AKQA’s Claudia Cristovao, Unruly’s Phil Townend and Results International’s Chris Beaumont debate the topic live next week.

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Charlotte McEleny

Charlotte McEleny is The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region. During her year in Asia, she's covered topics as wide ranging as industry overwork to artificial intelligence, and interviewed top CMOs such as Alibaba's Chris Tung, and world famous creatives such as Rankin.

Based in Singapore, she travels the region regularly, attending and presenting at many top events, such as Spikes, Ad Week Asia and Innovfest.

Prior to her role as Asia Editor, she spent 10 years working across the London marketing trade magazines, even picking up an award for Best Digital Team at the PPA Digital Awards during her spell as digital editor at Marketing.

All by Charlotte