Digital media buying and planning talent is increasingly a scarce resource, according to online publishing and agency executives. Agencies, marketers, online publishers and digital technology vendors can't keep their departments adequately staffed to keep up with the growing demand for mid-level planners, search marketing expertise, ad trafficking and inventory management, ad sales, information technology, digital database and design expertise.
The Career Fair draws students from more than 400 colleges in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, but also draws attendees from outside the tri-state area, according to Ian Ross, president of 212, and VP-Eastern Region, Partner Marketing at Orbitz. Exhibitors include CondeNet, Avenue A/Razorfish, Turner/CNN Digital, Cartoon Network, NYTimes.com, ID Media, Beyond Interactive and Innovation Interactive.
Last year, Ross said 212 attracted more than 350 qualified candidates to its Career Day. "The event offers an opportunity for us to give back to the industry and to get in front of hundreds of candidates," Ross said. The day includes networking sessions with industry professionals, a mentor lunch, a resume and interviewing workshop and the panel, "A Day in the Life of a Digital Professional."
Tracy Merslich, digital service representative, CNN Digital; Neil Buckley, account executive, IAC/InterActive; and Andre Woolery, media supervisor, Neo@Ogilvy, are participants on the "Day in the Life" panel which has been popular at previous Career Fairs. Jason Burnham, CEO, Burnham Marketing and a 212 board member, will moderate the panel.
"The panel is all about what it means to be in interactive media. The overriding message is there is no typical day; it's a fast-moving industry," said Stephanie Vautravers, account executive, CNN Digital and a 212 board member who also serves on the programming committee. Vautravers said Merslich was hired at CNN Digital directly as a result of last year's Career Fair.
Potential job candidates will also have plenty of time for informal networking and to hear about positions with creative titles like "head guru," "interactive engagement specialist" and "media whiz."
Apart from the Career Fair, 212, which has some 4,000 members, offers a variety of programs to digital media professionals including a "Meet the Marketer" series, "Dialed-In," examines a technology impacting the business and a host of networking events. It recently had a March Madness party that drew 600 people to the 40/40 Club and a "Meet the Marketer" event featuring the Auto category.
This year Ross said 212 is looking to enlist more agency involvement on its board committees and for its events. Ross called 212's networking events a "slam dunk," and said the board and related committees are developing more educational and peer-to-peer events. "We want junior people talking to EVPs about what it took to get there and we want more junior and mid-level agency folks involved in general." He said 212 was planning "Lunch and Learn" sessions at individual agencies to lure more agency involvement.
"Our number one priority this year is really getting the agencies much more involved and really learning what they need," said Vautravers. "One of the biggest things in terms of this huge upswing in the business is there really is a glut of talent out there. The bidding wars are back again." And while she said the landscape is somewhat reminiscent of the 1999/2000 Internet bubble, that's not necessarily the case: "I think it feels more real but we have to work really hard to let students know that this is a thriving industry."
Vautravers said there is a real shortage of personnel in areas like digital ad operations and digital research, two disciplines in which publishers and agencies must train young people. "Finding people in digital research is really tough, it's a young industry and there aren't that many people who have that kind of background," at least at the junior- to mid-level.
The Career Fair will be held at The Puck Building, 295 Lafayette Street in New York. For more information, go to 212nyc.org.