Marketing’s ‘looming talent crisis’

A new study says #highered isn’t graduating workforce-ready marketers

Add marketing and advertising to the list of business sectors that feel poorly served by higher education. And it could damage the future of college marketing programs.

Those sectors face a “looming … talent crisis” because colleges and universities aren’t adequately preparing students for the field, according to a new report from the Association of National Advertisers Educational Foundation.

The ANA report lays much of the blame at higher education’s feet. Colleges “are scrambling to develop curricula that anticipates rapidly changing industry realities,” says the report, titled “Bridging the Talent Disconnect: Charting the Pathways to Future Growth.”

Ad agencies are “disconnected from the most connected generation,” the report says, in large part because colleges and universities “are conflicted by the desire to prepare the job-ready graduates the industry demands and provide an education that develops the broad critical thinking capabilities needed for future leadership in society.”

“All this as marketers and ad agencies struggle to decipher and adapt to the millennial mindset while being frustrated that recent graduates are often unprepared to enter the field.”

This AdAge article provides a good summary of the report’s findings.

“[C]ollege and university curricula cannot keep pace with the rapid change going on in the industry.” Furthermore, “coursework and textbooks are out of date almost as soon as they’re published, and much that is taught about marketing and communications is outdated and unrelated to management expectations and students’ actual experience in the field,” the report states.

Four key issues

The report’s executive summary identifies four key “reasons for this disconnect” between academia and the ad/marketing industry:

  1. Digital transformation complicates new marketing and advertising career paths. “New digital channels have changed the way the industry communicates with consumers. Roles within organizations that didn’t previously exist, like social media and digital analytics managers, are
    mandating new ‘hard skills’ in data management and advanced analytics. These constantly evolving skill requirements and job definitions have made it difficult for marketers and agencies to define and promise clear career paths to students and prospective hires with any consistency.
  2. College and university curricula cannot keep pace with the industry’s rapid pace of change. “Course work and textbooks are out of date almost as soon as they’re published, and much that is taught about marketing and communications is outdated and unrelated to management expectations and students’ actual experience in the field.”
  3. Tech companies are grabbing up the talent. “Marketers and agencies now directly compete” with tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple, “all of which readily offer more generous compensation packages to new hires, both in terms of salary and perks.” Notes the report: “Aggressive recruiting tactics in the tech world further help them connect with talent faster and make concrete offers well in advance of marketing and advertising companies.”
  4. “Great expectations” are defining today’s crop of young talent. “Differing generational expectations for job responsibilities, quality of life, and career advancement are challenging middle- and senior-level marketing executives on how to effectively manage,
    motivate, and retain the new generation of workers. Young talent often seeks ‘purpose’ in their work along with ‘creative’ job environments, like those established by the startup and tech culture. Many also feel they’re not getting the level of responsibility and opportunities for rapid advancement they expect, fostering more frequent job turnover.”

It’s unfair to lay all of the blame at the feet of college marketing programs and business schools. But it’s clear that higher ed needs to retool its approach toward educating tomorrow’s marketers.

We are no longer in the Mad Men era. Higher ed needs to adjust.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

2 thoughts on “Marketing’s ‘looming talent crisis’”

  1. Marketing is an area that I think can truly benefit from a healthy mix of full-time faculty and adjuncts that are teaching in addition to a marketing gig. I’d love to teach a marketing class, and wouldn’t even think of using a textbook for it.

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