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Dataxu APAC VP James Sampson answers: does the marketing industry have a marketing problem?

James Sampson, vice president and general manager, Dataxu 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?

Dataxu APAC vice-president and general manager James Sampson 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?

The marketing industry is continually evolving, which is what I believe makes it both interesting and attractive to young people today. There are many paths one can take to get into this industry. For instance, when I graduated from university as a Finance major, I wanted a job in a technology startup. It just so happened that I found a perfect fit in an early mobile ad technology startup called Enpocket. I was attracted more to the technology startup side than marketing side, but grew to love both, as well as the broader digital ecosystem. The great thing about this industry is that it is increasingly headed in the direction of technology, attracting candidates from other disciplines than just the stereotypical liberal arts and marketing majors. While this has helped in building a slate of top diverse talent, for younger employees looking to enter the industry, it has become even more competitive than before.

In Asia, it seems like most fresh grads who want to join the ad tech side of things go to well known brands like Google and Facebook straight out of school, and then venture out into other companies a year or two later once they have become acquainted with the ecosystem.

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

I’m not sure if statistics paint the same picture, but I don’t believe there are many people leaving the industry as much as they are switching jobs within the field. In my opinion, this is due to a few things:

  • People in traditional roles (agencies, marketing departments etc) not feeling like they are experiencing the most innovative parts of the marketing discipline
  • Businesses running a million miles (kilometers) an hour, and not spending time on talent development or career progression
  • Misalignment of perceived company culture and actual company culture

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

In my experience, the shortages fall within technical roles, which permeate through R&D and customer-facing functions. Attracting enough engineering talent from other industries to ours is not easy given the demand, especially as the industry moves towards machine learning and big data-based solutions. Account servicing roles have also shifted to requiring light analytics, technical understanding of the delivery, and the ability to be the subject matter expert on rapidly changing trends. Most of the time, organisations have to consistently invest in training programs as the industry continues to rapidly evolve.

Do you think the marketing industry has a marketing problem?

Adtech definitely has a marketing problem outside of its industry and ecosystem. The only time the outside world hears about adtech is when something bad happens or consumers think their privacy is being exploited or jeopardised. They rarely hear about how all of the wonderful services they are accessing, or using to enrich their lives (particularly in the case of developing economies), are paid for by advertisers that need to see efficiency and effectiveness of their dollars - which in turn requires more and more innovation (i.e. smart people and technology advancements) to execute.

What can and should be done about it?

Raising awareness of the benefits and positives of adtech - and never inventing something like the pop-up ad again! – may help curb the negative perception. External engagement also helps. In Singapore, for instance, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)and its members are working with the government and local universities to set up internship programs, university courses and lectures, and more engagement with industry events before undergrads graduate. The government has also identified digital marketing as a growth driver for the economy, and has invested in programs help the local workforce fill the knowledge gaps needed when making a career change into marketing. These are but a few examples of good collaboration between the industry, government and academia.

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

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