HR Study Points To Hiring Surge On Madison Avenue

A study released Tuesday suggested that after two years of cutbacks and salary freezes, advertising and marketing firms are once again starting to bolster their staff levels.

The report, prepared by recruitment specialist The Creative Group, revealed that 57 percent of ad and marketing execs believe their companies will add personnel during the next 12 months--up 13 percentage points from the same time last year. Only 6 percent of those surveyed expect a decrease in staff levels over the next year, while 36 percent think the number of employees will remain the same.

The sentiment that hiring will soon surge coincides with respondents' big-picture optimism. A surprising 88 percent expect their business to increase over the next year (24 percent say "significantly," 64 percent say "somewhat"). Given this anticipated mini-boom, it's expected that companies will soon revisit their budgets, particularly in regard to overworked ad and marketing departments.

"Spending's back," quips Kurt O'Hare, president of media and agency recruitment specialists O'Hare & Associates. "Most of the agencies seem to be in hiring mode, whether it's correcting staff shortages or aggressively adding to accommodate increased business. There's a realization that they have to start passing along salary increases--that they have to start hiring to ease the overall workload."



When respondents were asked which posts would likely be filled first, 36 percent said account management, with creative pros like graphic designers and computer artists (13 percent), communication execs (6 percent), and media planners (6 percent) lagging behind.

As for media firms specifically, both Creative Group executive director Tracey Turner and O'Hare see better times ahead in the immediate future.

With companies beginning to up their investments in ad and marketing programs, it would follow that media firms will hire in order to keep up with expected client demand. "While many firms appear to be increasing their advertising spend, they are being very strategic, and want to maximize the value of every dollar spent," Turner notes via email.

O'Hare cautions against excessive short-term overconfidence ("there's a feeling on the street that things are still just bumping along"). At the same time, he says that media firms are starting to experience key shortages in specific areas.

"The most difficult candidate to find is an online media planner with three years in the business--you combine the reduction in staff levels over the last few years with the fact that there was no training going on, and there's almost nobody for those jobs," he explains. "Everybody's scrambling for supervisors and associate directors."

For the study, an independent research firm tapped 250 respondents: 125 agency executives and 125 marketing execs working at the country's 1,000 largest companies.

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