Talent Revolution 2016 survey signals new need for agency and client skills partnerships

March 2017

At the Google Digital Academy we partner with organisations to coach them along their digital transformation journey. Over the years, there’s one thing we’ve heard a lot: ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ when it comes to marketing in a digital world. To help, we teamed up with the Boston Consulting Group* to create the Talent Revolution, a first-of-its-kind tool that allows every organisation to benchmark their marketing capability and diagnose where they need to shore up. Two years in and two survey cycles down, our most surprising find from 2016 is that on a 100-point scale (with 100 indicating best practice) the average digital skills score in advertisers is 57 - exactly the same as it was 18 months ago.

Agencies - in their first year as part of the survey - are in stronger shape at 68, but as digital spending stays firmly on the up there’s a clear disconnect between the skills required and the skills in play on both sides. ‘Given the pace of technological change and the growing influence of digital technologies throughout the marketing function, we expected advertisers to show material improvement in our current survey—the kind that would indicate that they are moving in the right direction, if still getting up to speed,’ says Dominic Field, a BCG partner and co-author of the 2016 Talent Revolution report. ‘Instead, we found more inertia than action as well as low scores in some surprising areas.’

The gap between agency and advertiser capabilities

When the results from the Talent Revolution Survey first came back in 2015, they represented 65 advertisers from the UK and Germany. By year two that number had grown to 141 advertisers who were joined by 126 agencies, from a total of 41 countries, all of which has helped uncover more about what makes up this divide. Results in 2016 show that despite smartphone usage sitting an all-time high, advertisers are still coming up against mobile advertising as agencies pull ahead with a score of 62 to the advertisers’ 45. However, the gap narrows slightly around digital targeting (agencies scored 67, advertisers 53) and they start to level out with equally low grades for the ability to test, learn and optimise: 50 and 59, advertisers and agencies.

Rapidly changing landscape: Learning and development is key

Whilst agencies look like the frontrunners here, there’s still a lot to be done to ensure both sides alike don’t drop further behind as the digital landscape continues to shift at pace. Persisting talent shortfalls put this at risk: only 48% of advertisers and 64% say their business is able to attract and retain critical digital marketing talent. Learning programmes that equip marketers with the right skills and know-how for their role are also thin on the ground (just 36% of advertisers and 61% of agencies say they’ve got what they need); these numbers dip lower still when they’re asked if they have a very effective and impactful learning and development programme for digital marketing overall - 28% and 50% respectively agree.

So what needs to happen next? Director of the Google Digital Academy Shuvo Saha believes doubling down and working together - agency and client - to foster a collaborative skills development culture is better for everyone. 'The importance of having a robust, consistent plan for equipping your marketing team to deal with the rapidly changing landscape cannot be underestimated,’ explains Shuvo.

‘As the results suggest there is still a noticeable way to go in order for marketers to be able to fully make the most of the opportunities presented - even at agency level. We at the Digital Academy believe this is a clear indicator of the need for a more joined up approach by the industry to building digital capabilities together and hopefully this will provide the wake-up call needed.'

Where do I start?

If you’re not sure where to start, be sure to check out the short-to-midterm capability checklists for agencies and advertisers or download a free copy of the full report to learn more. If you’d like to get involved in the Talent Revolution 2017, register your interest to be first in line when the survey opens later this year.


*The BCG study was commissioned by the Google Digital Academy and supported by the IAB, the IPA, Marketing Academy, ISBA, the Marketing Society, AVADO, BVDW, bevh, dgfp, DDV, BrandMovers and IAB Sweden

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