Retail media expertise is at a premium. How can smaller agencies attract talent?
As agency groups compete to take an edge in the retail media space, how can challengers and indies recruit top talent?
Retail media has become a competitive area of focus for media agencies / Unsplash
Retail media is one of the big stories of the last couple of years and, in 2023, it has exploded. As investment in this area has increased, agency investments in their capabilities have also risen.
Recruitment, as ever, has been a battleground. Hype cycles always drive up interest in hiring people who know what they’re doing and who can talk your clients into sticking with you or switching to you. With retail media a lucrative niche, related skills are fetching a high premium.
But not every agency can afford to stuff the mouths of recruits with gold. To find out how indie media agencies and challenger firms are competing for new hires with established industry names, we asked a selection of business leaders from both sides of the pond how they are managing to pull in talent.
How do you solve a problem like… hiring retail media experts as a challenger agency?
Gabriel Richy, enterprise consultant manager, Media.Monks: “You can develop talent from within, but you need one or two people who know retail and can upskill and disseminate knowledge among the org. Or, you need to acquire that talent to upskill the rest of the talent (a rather good investment, I would think). Some of this knowledge may exist already. A benefit is that agencies work with various clients, including FMCG clients, who will look to them for strategic guidance on retail media. People who already work with these clients should already possess a great deal of knowledge of retail.
“End clients expect agencies to guide them through the retail media landscape – to plan and buy cross-channel. Agencies need to understand the retail ecosystem and think outside the box as retail partners aren’t just retail players. Agencies generally possess the skillsets required. However, there is a need for multidisciplinary stakeholders who can understand the world of retailers and suppliers. Therefore, upskilling and allowing resources to do so will be critical.”
Stacie Boney, president, Hanson Dodge: “Prior to the pandemic, we made a decision to invest in an in-house media capability. That decision has been rewarded: our media business now accounts for 25% of our agency revenues and has been a key driver of our new business success. We recognized we needed to hire an executive media director to oversee this operation and help grow it into a core agency competency. At the same time, it was an opportunity to build out the business into other areas we were passionate about, like retail media. In Jeremy Whitt, we found the best of all worlds.”
Miruna Sfat, marketing director, Williams Commerce: “Recruiting top talent as a smaller agency has always been a challenge and attracting retail media experts is no different, but it offers them a dynamic, collaborative culture and the chance to make a significant impact. Working for a smaller agency means driving real change for retail businesses, where successful media campaigns can be pivotal for growth and survival. Indie agencies provide opportunities for cross-disciplinary training, fostering skill development. This, in turn, enables experts to share their knowledge, expanding the pool of retail media talent and contributing to the agency’s internal and external success.”
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Eric Perko, founder, Apollo Partners: “Apollo Partners has had a lot of success in bringing in retail media talent. We see our success in this area related to the fact that we’ve created real opportunities that niche talent wants to work on because they can have an outsized impact on the industry’s development. For those that are entrepreneurial and action-oriented, independent agencies like Apollo Partners can be a much better environment to put skills to work than the larger, matrixed and (generally) slower organizations. Also, as larger companies face pressures on margin and account losses, we are typically more compelling in terms of compensation, stability and benefits.”
Zach Ricchuiti, associate vice-president, client delivery, Kepler: “Retail media is undergoing rapid transformation, often outpacing the ability of individuals to keep up with its pace. At Kepler, rather than merely hiring an expert who is knowledgeable at a specific point in time, our approach prioritizes continuous learning and re-learning to sustain expertise. A key strategy to achieve this is by fostering strong relationships with leading retail networks and adtech solutions. This positions us as early adopters, often involved in alpha and beta testing phases. Consequently, when the market is just beginning to understand new offerings, we are already experienced in utilizing them.”
Emma Dean, chief operations officer (COO), SMG: “With a robust 15-year legacy and a team of seasoned retail media experts, we have a rich tapestry of data, knowledge and relationships that enables us to understand what truly works in this space. What is crucial is staying ahead by hiring new specialist talent to forge the future of new media innovation and technology, as well as training and developing our people to stay equipped for the retail media opportunities of the future in an industry that continues to grow and transform. At SMG, we are committed to retaining and growing brilliant talent through our unique culture and in fostering an environment that encourages continuous innovation and professional development. In doing this, we have people that come and stay with us for years, not months, and through that commitment, we are able to build true industry experts.”
Nick Drabicky, senior vice-president and general manager of client services, January Digital: “Hiring retail media experts with hands-on experience has certainly been a focus for January Digital in recent years. With the explosion of retail media, we’re continuing to recruit and prioritize talent who have in-house client experience with organizations of varying sizes. Retail media is unique in that it’s still very new and nascent, so we look for a combination of hands-on experience in the space but also a sense of being entrepreneurial and developing net new methods. It’s a competitive market, but with flexibility in working environments, paid healthcare premiums, established one-of-a-kind volunteer and mental health programs, and, of course, incredibly smart existing talent, we have an appetizing offering.”
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