Cultivating the next generation of marketing talent

Vanessa Liell
By Vanessa Liell | 26 October 2020
Vanessa Liell

Vanessa Liell, executive director, Commtract

The marketing industry is currently facing a skills crisis. Sure, core skills such as the ability to write persuasively and build a brand remain the same, but customers’ buying behaviours are constantly changing, requiring marketers to adapt simultaneously.

There has been a fundamental shift in how we communicate and when we communicate. We know more than we’ve ever known about the customer, yet the methods to reach them have become increasingly fragmented. There is arguably no other industry requiring the level of flexibility, innovation and investment as marketing – and this applies to our people.

At the same time, there are a few well known truths about recessions – people spend less, businesses are firing instead of hiring, economic output falls and marketing budgets are cut. More than 44% of CMOs have experienced mid-year budget cuts as a result of the pandemic and 10.7% of those expect their budgets to face significant cuts of more than 15%  (Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2020).

What’s more, younger Australians were among the first casualties in the economic downturn. Youth unemployment in Australia is now 14.3% - more than double the general rate of unemployment. The fallout from this in terms of the economic, social and human costs are immeasurable. Which begs the question, what role does our industry play in protecting young marketing talent from joining these unemployment figures?

The Budget’s Job Maker initiative invites us to focus longer-term, using the next 12-months to do the groundwork, hiring, mentoring and upskilling the next generation of CMOs so that we can create a thriving ecosystem of talent in our industry.

Under the new incentive, businesses are able to claim $200 per week for employees aged 16-29. To be eligible employees must have received the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance, or Parenting Payment for at least one of the previous three months at the time of hiring.

Finding employees who meet these criteria might sound like a hard task, but there is now an abundance of young talent due to job cuts at media organisations and advertising agency groups.

"Job Maker" is a short-term initiative, but one that can be used to solve some of our long-term industry problems. Rather than simply hiring young people, it’s our responsibility to nurture this talent, and upskill them in the areas with the greatest longevity.

According to, digital project managers, content managers, data insight managers, and analysts will be the skills most in demand in the future. Similarly, Commtract has seen a surge in demand from employers for digital marketing and writing skills, along with crisis management and internal communications.

On this basis, let’s assume a business is looking at hiring a content writer for $51k, which is the industry standard. Under the Job Maker initiative, this employee would cost approximately $40k for the first 12 months. The cost to business is low, but the social, economic and health implications of long-term unemployment for young people in our industry is high.

As Èmile Zola says, "The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work."

The Budget’s "Job Maker" calls us to find this work for young people, to support their gifts and, ultimately, pave the way for the industry’s future.