"Many companies are looking to refresh their branding to reflect new product and service offerings, as well as take their marketing campaigns to the next level in the year ahead," said Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group.
In other words, most agencies are increasingly interested in diversifying the services they offer and the staff they employ. Based on which professionals they are most interested in hiring, it seems most want to provide full-service communication to their clients, with an emphasis on non-traditional agency functions such as public relations, web design, and social media.
Top five agency positions in demand for first quarter 2012.*
1. Account services (24 percent)
2. Brand/product managers (21 percent)
3. Public relations professionals (17 percent)
4. Web designers (16 percent)
5. Social media professionals (14 percent)
*Based on executive responses to the question: "In which of the following areas do you expect to hire in the first quarter of 2012? Media services and marketing research also scored better than 10 percent. While mobile application developers, interactive media, print design/production, creative/art direction, and copywriting all lagged under 10 percent.
What this means is that many advertising agencies are not only looking to bring more public relations and social media services in house, but they are also increasingly interested in offering these services as a total package, something many marketing clients have been asking agencies to do for years.
In fact, diversification seems to be one of the primary reasons that most marketing and advertising executives are confident in their growth prospects next year. Eighty-nine percent said they were confident, even among those that were not planning to hire in the first quarter. Others, of course, based on their hiring priorities, are hoping to grow their agencies simply by hiring more account executives.
What agencies seem less interested in hiring are what used to be considered essential services at an advertising agency — creative directors, art directors, and copywriters. In terms of priority, all three lagged well behind non-traditional positions, with copywriters coming in dead last.
Advertising agencies are betting on a very different game.
Believe it or not, there are two reasons that marketing and advertising executives are shifting priorities. While many see public relations and online services as essential for growth, they also say that it is increasingly difficult to find skilled creative professionals. Without having the best creative in house, agencies are becoming more reliant on distinguishing themselves in other areas.
It could also allude to another trend in the industry. More executives are increasingly confident in outsourcing creative services but less confident outsourcing or partnering with public relations and social media firms. Part of the reason might be related to how both services are billed (creative is often outsourced by the project whereas public relations and social media are retained).
All of this is part of an ongoing trend that started several years ago, but was punctuated last year. In the quest to own social media, advertising agencies are bringing social media in house much like many brought web design in house during the 1990s. And for those who see public relations firms as owning social might note, it seems more agencies are simply bringing that service in house too.