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As economies restart and ad spend goes up, demand for agency talent is on the rise

The market for creative and strategy talent has become highly competitive in recent weeks

As economies recover from the pandemic lows of 2020, employers everywhere are scrambling to recruit new staff. Businesses hoping to expand as markets grow – or regain ground lost to last year’s redundancies and cost-cutting – have provoked a heated hiring market.

In the UK, demand for workers is so high that the country faces its biggest labor shortage since 1997.

Per major holding companies, regional indies and jobs board platforms, those conditions are currently replicated in the agency talent market too, as client spend floods back into the space.

The wide view

  • According to The Dots, the professional and social platform for the creative industries, new vacancies listings regained their pre-Covid-19 level by March of this year.

  • By June, the number of roles posted on the site was 300% higher than the same time in 2020 (with a total of 3,000 vacancies currently live on the platform).

  • Remote-first roles are becoming normalized. While remote gigs were only ‘rarely posted’ on the site previously, they now account for over 10% of the vacancies currently advertised.

  • That matches up with conditions in the US, where agencies are taking advantage of a talent pool unrestrained by geography.

Who’s hiring right now?

  • At Dentsu, the number of vacancies increased 60% compared to the first quarter of 2021. The company predicts the UK’s ad market will grow 12% this year.

  • Chief people officer Anne Sewell said: “At Dentsu we are absolutely in growth mode right now. This renewed sense of confidence has accelerated quickly among UK clients and is reflected in our hiring plans, with the volume of open opportunities increasing by over 60% quarter-on-quarter across the first half of 2021. Clearly it’s a highly competitive market but as the most geographically diverse business of our kind, we’re fortunate to be able to focus on attracting top talent from right across the UK.“

  • US rival Omnicom is hiring across the board. The company declined to release specific figures, but said it’s taking on new staff in the US especially, as markets move through the gears and client spend returns.

  • At Publicis Groupe, with financials recovering beyond 2019 levels, chief executive Arthur Sadoun indicated hiring is on the up, while stressing the importance of keeping its current staff from being tempted away.

  • A spokesperson for Publicis told The Drum: “Growth is driving higher-than-usual hiring, now back to pre-pandemic levels, and we’re witnessing an unprecedented talent market in terms of competition. This is evident if we look at the figures – we’ve hired two thirds of our previous annual numbers in the first half of 2021 alone.“

What about smaller agencies?

  • MSQ, which just announced an expansion in the US market, is staffing up in North America and the UK. Chief executive Peter Reid told The Drum that the company aims to bring in as many as 30 new staff to its US operations, and 100 on the other side of the Atlantic, including senior appointments, over the next 12 months.

  • Reid said: “We’re looking to scale rapidly in the US ... in the next 12-18 months. We see this as the start of something. We’ve still got a lot of growth and headroom in the US.“

  • Indie agencies are recruiting too. Relative Marketing, a digital agency based in the north west of England, told The Drum it has hired four new faces to join its team, which now numbers 10.

  • North of the border, Aberdeen-based strategic comms agency Aspect has made six new appointments since the beginning of the year.

  • Founder and managing director Andrew McCallum told The Drum it has tripled its headcount over the last 18 months: “The move to remote working has also opened up a wider talent pool, allowing us to recruit the brightest talent in the communication industry. With recruitment ongoing, I envisage us growing to 20 permanent members of staff by the end of 2021.”

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