Marketing Is Facing a Talent Crisis

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New study reveals the real depth of the marketing talent shortage, where all the good people went, and what you can do to turn it around.

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New research released this summer highlights a critical talent shortage in marketing departments around the world. The study from WFA & global media advisors, MediaSense, surveyed 400 leaders within both agencies and advertisers, to understand the state of the marketing talent pool.

More than ¾ of respondents admitted to facing talent shortages within their own organizations, and nearly half believe the profession is facing its worst-ever talent crisis, as it grapples with accelerating digital adoption across all channels and mediums. .

Digital & Technical Skills Hardest to find

Good talent is hardest to find when it comes to data and analytics (84%), followed closely by people with expertise in eCommerce/retail (71%) and media measurement (69%) – suggesting that marketing operations is a critical area of weaknesses for many.

65% also acknowledged challenges finding and retaining skilled strategists.

The talent crisis is affecting all parts of the industry and clients are feeling the pinch… this is having a profound impact on the ability of [organizations] to execute campaigns globally.

Matt Green, Director, Global Media Services at WFA

Creative positions appear easier to fill, with social media and influencer marketing specialists among the easiest to recruit. This is likely due, at least in part, to the relative immaturity of the field lowering employers’ expectations when recruiting for these positions.

At the same time, jobs that are easier to automate – such as search marketing or ad management – may be seeing a drop in demand & role complexity, making it easier to fill open positions and train new recruits.

Where Did All The Talent Go?

One challenge is the relative portability of data and analytics skillsets, making it easier for people with these strengths to migrate between different organizational departments. The rapid rise of technology companies over the pandemic is also a contributing factor. Tech firms are able to offer generous compensation plans that are drawing people away from the creative fields & more traditional marketing departments.

A few key organizational factors are seen to be driving the exodus:

  • An acute lack of training and mentoring has played a significant role in depleting the talent pool, as organizations who overlooked developing new hires through training & structured mentoring programs are now paying the price for this oversight.
  • Hiring & retention strategies also shoulder some of the blame. Over-reliance on CV-driven recruiting strategies eliminates viable candidates from consideration. A perceived lack of sensitivity from managers also speaks to the need to develop leadership EQ in order to improve talent retention.
  • Respondents also struggled to connect their existence to larger purpose and values, a non-negotiable in the current labour environment.
  • Financial constraints also play a part, as organizations struggle to compete with tech industry salaries. 78% of all respondents identified a growing imbalance between salary expectations and ability in new hires.

Burnout, once a badge of the profession, continues to be a critical issue. One that has been made worse by the pandemic, particularly amongst the senior marketers and leaders who must struggle to manage growing expectations against the inevitable physical limitations of time, budget & resources.

What’s Next

It’s time to rethink talent development and let go of our industry obsession with technical skills that, quite frankly, can be acquired for free online by any 8th grader with a computer and an internet connection.

Stop trying to recruit the finished article – get motivated people and invest in training

Survey Respondent 


  • Hire for potential and invest in developing the individual. Put time into mentoring (or, failing that, consider a paid mentoring program that develops soft skills, while providing accountability and decision-making support).
  • Fight to retain experienced team members. When COVID hit, senior levels were among the first cuts, as organizations leaned deeply into attracting younger, tech-savvy new hires. Those teams now find themselves battling the headwinds of a recession without the management experience or integrated marketing expertise the economy demands.
  • Get flexible. Inflationary pressure on the cost of living is bolstering the work from home movement with little appetite amongst workers to return to the office full-time.

Speaking from experience, I know this strategy works. Over the 20+ years I ran my digital agency, my most successful hires were people most ‘downtown firms’ wouldn’t even have considered. Smart, motivated people with a passion for learning and what I call a “marketing gut” have a lot to offer when you’re willing to invest time in them.

Want more from the study? Download it here.

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