Tal­ent short­age and price wars

They re­main the fun­da­men­tal is­sues in the ad and me­dia space

The Star Malaysia - StarBiz - - Billings - By DALJIT DHESI [email protected]­tar.com.my

AS the lo­cal ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try moves into the new year with fresh op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges, there is one glar­ing is­sue which still rears its ugly head in the in­dus­try. It is no other than tal­ent short­age and re­ten­tion in the com­pet­i­tive ad­ver­tis­ing space.

Based on a sur­vey by The Cre­ative Group which was pub­lished in De­cem­ber last year, it noted that 60% of ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing de­ci­sion mak­ers, for ex­am­ple in North Amer­ica alone, plan to ex­pand their teams in the first half of 2019.

It showed that web pro­duc­tion and web and mo­bile de­vel­op­ment were top ar­eas for re­cruit­ment but were the hard­est po­si­tions to fill. Pro­fes­sion­als with knowl­edge in user ex­pe­ri­ence, cre­ative de­vel­op­ment and vis­ual de­sign were also in the lists, it re­vealed.

The Cre­ative Group is the top provider of the cre­ative and mar­ket­ing worlds’ best and bright­est. The tal­ent crunch on the home turf is no dif­fer­ent.

Tal­ent crunch and price wars

Havas Me­dia Group Malaysia CEO An­dreas Vo­giatza­kis at­tributes the tal­ent crunch and brain drain in the in­dus­try to price wars and un­der­cut­ting among play­ers.

He tells StarBizweek that the fun­da­men­tal is­sue in the ad and me­dia space all these years has been the price wars and the re­lent­less un­der­cut­ting in the in­dus­try driven by sev­eral fac­tors.

“Tal­ent short­age is a painful is­sue that no one wants to openly dis­cuss, yet I do be­lieve it has been the source of most evils in our in­dus­try. There has been a mas­sive brain drain not only of ad­ver­tis­ing/mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als leav­ing Malaysia but also of them leav­ing the ad in­dus­try it­self.

“The ef­forts from var­i­ous in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion have not re­ally man­aged to re­verse this trend fully for sev­eral rea­sons. The in­dus­try must unite to tackle this chal­lenge to­gether. Unite to of­fer train­ing, in­tern­ships, pro­grammes that bring back the ex­cite­ment to our in­dus­try, and above all, en­hance the sol­i­dar­ity to stop the price wars and un­der­cut­ting, though dif­fi­cult, but not im­pos­si­ble.”

Dentsu Aegis Net­work Malaysia CEO Nicky Lim agrees that short­age of tal­ent has been a trend over the past five years. As more and more new busi­nesses open and cou­pled with the lure of bet­ter forex op­por­tu­ni­ties abroad, he adds it will be a per­sis­tent chal­lenge.

Com­pound­ing the tal­ent short­age is­sue is the mil­len­ni­als which have a very dif­fer­ent value and pri­or­ity sys­tem. On one hand, au­to­ma­tion is the way for­ward, he says, on the other hand, beef­ing up on pro­vid­ing bet­ter train­ing to po­ten­tial can­di­dates to be­come bet­ter hu­man with em­pa­thy may also be the way for­ward.

“As philo­soph­i­cal as it may sound, em­pa­thy and grate­ful­ness will be key qual­i­ties to have in the fu­ture where dig­i­tal reigns,” Lim stresses.

Mean­while, Publi­cis One Malaysia and Leo Bur­nett Malaysia CEO Tan Kien Eng says that to over­come tal­ent crunch in a sus­tain­able way, an en­ter­prise needs to value add to make it worth­while for tal­ents to stay and grow with the busi­ness.

Value-add can be in the form of con­tin­u­ous learn­ing through train­ings, recre­ation and flexi-work-life en­vi­ron­ment, he says. “We are also con­stantly groom­ing our man­agers to be bet­ter lead­ers as tal­ents stay or leave be­cause of their im­me­di­ate man­agers and the man­ager’s abil­ity to lead, guide and sup­port them,’’ Tan adds.

With over 200,000 grad­u­ates in a year, he says the chal­lenge the in­dus­try faces is a short­age of strong and em­ploy­able tal­ents as a fifth of grad­u­ates re­main un­em­ployed.

“At Leo Bur­nett, we are con­tin­u­ously work­ing with in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing to shape fu­ture tal­ents to be em­ploy­able and in­dus­try ready. Some of our re­cent ini­tia­tives in­clude work­ing with Monash Malaysia re­searchers on fund­ing and tech sup­port.

“We re­cently signed with Xi­a­men Uni­ver­sity Malaysia to share case stud­ies, lec­tures and ini­tia­tives with the newly-es­tab­lished ad­ver­tis­ing and PR fac­ulty,’’ Tan notes.

IPG Me­dia­brands Malaysia CEO Bala Po­ma­leh says find­ing good tal­ents will con­tinue to be a top pri­or­ity for the agency. He adds that it will sup­port each tal­ent to steer to­wards rein­ven­tion in or­der to re­main rel­e­vant.

Bala notes: “Each and every mem­ber of our team, in­clud­ing my­self, will be learn­ing across dif­fer­ent spa­ces, es­pe­cially within the dig­i­tal sphere, in or­der to stay ahead of the curve.”

Hav­ing an up­beat view, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ac­cred­ited Ad­ver­tis­ing Agents Malaysia pres­i­dent and Havas Im­merse Malaysia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew Lee says tal­ent short­age can be mit­i­gated by hir­ing spe­cial­ists and pro­fes­sion­als from other back­grounds to in­ject fresh ideas in the fast-evolv­ing ad­ver­tis­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions land­scape.

With more spe­cial­ists from var­i­ous pro­fes­sions, he says it will al­low an agency to see things in a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive and to un­der­stand bet­ter the peo­ple’s fast-chang­ing needs.

Qual­ity con­tent amid dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion

Vo­giatza­kis views tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments will at the same time pose as the big­gest op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges for the in­dus­try. In the next five years, he fore­sees the in­dus­try ad­vanc­ing at un­prece­dented lev­els. The agency model, he says will change where smaller, more ag­ile, nim­bler and spe­cialised agen­cies will win more busi­nesses.

“The con­sumer ecosys­tem will be­come more frag­mented and com­pli­cated. The at­ten­tion spans of con­sumers will di­min­ish fur­ther. How­ever, when rel­e­vancy kicks in, I be­lieve the en­gage­ment du­ra­tion be­tween agen­cies and con­sumers will in­crease. The chal­lenge will be how to cre­ate mean­ing­ful con­tent that will en­gage with the con­sumers in mean­ing­ful ways.

“I be­lieve tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments like ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, voice recog­ni­tion and in­tel­li­gent as­sis­tants will fur­ther en­hance the hype in new ad­ver­tis­ing medi­ums, yet the fun­da­men­tals need to be rel­e­vant. For ex­am­ple, there must be qual­ity con­tent and pow­er­ful story-telling in cam­paigns.

“Re­mem­ber that plat­forms and tech­nolo­gies are noth­ing more but means to an end de­sired re­sult. What we want is not the plat­form it­self, but the out­come it brings. So when we get en­tan­gled in our tech talk, I al­ways re­fo­cus back to what is the out­come and KPI we want to achieve,” he says.

The pres­sure on mar­gins Bala opines will re­main a chal­lenge in the ad space. Me­dia agen­cies will need to fo­cus on busi­ness out­comes as a key met­ric in or­der to re­tain a solid part­ner­ship with clients, he says.

Tra­di­tional me­dia he adds will con­tinue to be im­por­tant as it still forms the base for many mass brand clients. At the same time, he says many ven­dors of tra­di­tional plat­forms are ac­tively in­tro­duc­ing dig­i­tal so­lu­tions which will al­low for nat­u­ral tran­si­tion. The agency, he notes is con­tin­u­ously work­ing with key part­ners on this front.

Whilst dig­i­tal me­dia con­sump­tion is in­creas­ing ex­po­nen­tially at the ex­pense of most tra­di­tional me­dia, he says the agency sees one off­line me­dia stand­ing the test of time.

“High po­ten­tial re­mains within out-ofhome (OOH) me­dia that many ad­ver­tis­ers are not yet cap­i­tal­is­ing on. There re­mains a huge vac­uum to be filled in terms of cre­at­ing cus­tomised mes­sag­ing for OOH me­dia that will highly com­ple­ment on­line and other off­line me­dia, and brands should be cog­nisant of these op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Bala says.

Lim says if there is one cer­tainty go­ing into 2019, it is that dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion will con­tinue to hap­pen. Tra­di­tional cre­ative agen­cies will go bust as no ac­cess to data will be the cause of it. “Evolve or die, that’s the re­al­ity,” he notes.

An­other trend to ob­serve is the con­tin­ued au­to­ma­tion via AI or ma­chine learn­ing, ul­ti­mately lead­ing to bet­ter qual­ity and greater cost ef­fi­ciency. This, he adds com­bined with blockchain tech­nol­ogy will even­tu­ally make the role of mid­dle­men re­dun­dant. “Sim­i­larly, me­dia agen­cies are be­ing forced to evolve and ex­pand its of­fer­ings, fail­ing which, will be rel­e­gated to be­come a com­mod­ity bro­ker,” he stresses.

Malaysian ad in­dus­try a lag­gard?

Dentu’s Lim says the lo­cal ad in­dus­try un­for­tu­nately hasn’t evolved to be as dy­namic as it should and still a lag­gard in South-East Asia be­hind Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land. That said, he adds the in­dus­try will be forced to evolve at a much more crit­i­cal speed, more so when con­sul­tan­cies and hy­brid agen­cies comes to play.

Tan adds on the whole, most cor­po­ra­tions as well as agen­cies are not evolv­ing fast enough to meet the chang­ing land­scape. Hav­ing said that, he says Publi­cis Groupe and Leo Bur­nett Malaysia is keep­ing abreast with the change.

“We set up Dig­i­tas as data and tech lead agency in view of the im­pend­ing change and re­quire­ments in the mar­ket. Prodi­gious, our brand pro­duc­tion and lo­gis­tics agency, is to cater for end-to-end dig­i­tal pro­duc­tion at scale. By look­ing at some of our re­cent new busi­ness wins in the re­gion, our of­fice is well ahead com­pared to our com­peti­tors in the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries in the area of per­for­mance mar­ket­ing, data re­lated ini­tia­tives and CRM.

Lee says although there are some as­pects where Malaysia is be­hind some coun­tries in Asia-Pa­cific but there are also many as­pects where the coun­try is ad­vanced com­pared to the world.

“Peo­ple around the world are be­com­ing more sen­si­tive to di­ver­sity and equal­ity and Malaysia is way ahead of many coun­tries in man­ag­ing racial and re­li­gion sen­si­tiv­i­ties. The Dolce & Gab­bana is­sue that hap­pened in China would not have hap­pened in Malaysia,’’ he em­pha­sises.

In Novem­ber last year, the de­signer duo be­hind lux­ury Ital­ian brand Dolce & Gab­bana is­sued an apol­ogy to the Chi­nese in an ef­fort to stall a grow­ing back­lash against their la­bel after a so­cial me­dia cam­paign soured and leaked com­ments that were deemed racist.

Vo­giatza­kis stands by his views that the ad in­dus­try is now more dy­namic. He says the cre­ativ­ity level is higher and in terms of awards win in the in­ter­na­tional arena such as in Cannes. And for that, he says iron­i­cally, Malaysia has also be­come a source of tal­ent ex­port to var­i­ous re­gional mar­kets.

Painful stuff: Vo­giatza­kis says tal­ent short­age is a painful is­sue that no one wants to openly dis­cuss. Fresh idea: Lee says the prob­lem can be mit­i­gated by hir­ing spe­cial­ists and pro­fes­sion­als from other back­grounds. Value add: Tan says an en­ter­prise needs to value add to make it worth­while for tal­ents to stay and grow with the busi­ness. OOH fac­tor: Bala says good po­ten­tial re­mains within out-of-home me­dia that many ad­ver­tis­ers are not yet cap­i­tal­is­ing on.

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