Two-thirds of Aus marketers 'aren't effective at digital'

By Wenlei Ma and Rosie Baker | 10 October 2013

If half of US marketers don't feel versed enough in digital, it's disheartening to see more than two-thirds of Australian adlanders don't feel local marketers have the requisite skills.

An AdNews poll asked if Australian marketers are effective at digital marketing, off the back of Adobe results from the US which found 48% of marketers don't feel they are 'good' at digital.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents to the AdNews poll answered either 'No' (19.5%) or 'We're a long way off' (48.7%) while 32% said 'Yes' or 'We're getting there'.

To address the issue, Telstra director of CRM, loyalty and digital Nick Adams said that training needed to start looking forward instead of back.

“I think in general, there's opportunity to lift the skillbase of marketers, there are marketers that want to curate, those that want to build but there is definitely a calling to upskill the digital marketing community in a much more substantial way. That's why we’re investing in training our own people to lift capability.

“My general observation of current state of training is that it reflects the now and it's looking a little bit in the rear view mirror. There's an opportunity to say 'what does a digital marketer look like in the future?'. They're playing in the now and they need to be playing on the future looking at the opportunities and gaps that need to be closed. There's more opportunity for marketers to get better trained than they are today.”

Soap Creative managing director Ross Raeburn said that while there were varying degrees of confidence about digital in marketers, there was no shortage of passion or desire of having those digital skills.

“For marketers, there are a lot of considerations outside of marketing and brand building and the knock-on effect is they may not have the time.”

“There's a lot of talk of brands upping their investment in digital but you need to look at where the investment is going. The kind of growth that is just buying more search or display won't improve your personal understanding of digital marketing.”

He said that agencies such as Soap have a responsibility to inform marketers about digital by 'prepping' them with great digital ideas and insights which have worked elsewhere, and then making it relevant for that brand.

Deepend head of strategy Amer Iqbal said part of the perception problem is agencies grumbling about clients' “supposed shortcomings”, but at the same time, agencies and clients are coming together on this.

“Part of the problem is that digital agencies and client side marketers often aren't having the conversation about any real (or perceived) skills gap. No one wants to admit there is a problem,” he said.

He added that marketers need to trust their digital agencies. “The days of siloing a digital brief are outdated. Marketers should be engaging their digital agencies across all comms activity to see where technology can enhance their overall marketing effort.”

The White Agency's head of marketing, Brendan Fearn, said that while Australian consumers are some of the most digitally savvy in the world, a divide exists within the private sector.

“We're seeing a growing group of marketers that have a deep understanding of digital and the role it plays. We also see a large, but constricting group that don't.”

The pace of change has proven a challenge to marketers, added Fearn. He said: “The length of time a corporation takes to respond to an emerging opportunity can often mean they miss the boat and ultimately lose competitive advantage to those with greater dexterity.”

“The businesses that are succeeding understand the role digital plays across their business and deploy collaborative cross-functional teams (IT, product, customer service and marketing) to make decisions.”

Iqbal said an area where marketers could be upskilling is understanding the native strengths that digital can deliver in measurability, attribution, campaign optimisation, organic reach and deep engagement.

ADMA chief executive Jodie Sangster said it's not so much a lack of digital skills in the Australian market but more that there's a mismatch of skills. Those who've come through digital paths may not have the marketing nous but those that came from a more traditional marketing background don't have the digital skills.

“It's not that [the skills] don't exist – they do – the problem is people in digital don't have the underpinning required for data-driven marketing,” she said. “And then you've got data-driven marketing skills on one side which has come out of what was previously direct – understanding data, measurability, customer-centricity – and those people unfortunately don't have the digital skills.”

She added companies have started to either upskill or bring those two groups together.

But she said this problem wasn't isolated to Australia. Markets such as the UK and US have similar experiences.

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