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Plutarch: Thoughts on People Management


A Revolution in Digital Marketing Capability? Part 2

Wednesday 21st October 2015

Earlier in the month we shared a report published by BCG, in partnership with Google and The Marketing Academy.

The report, which you can read below, proposed that industry professionals were broadly uncertain of how to best enhance their digital marketing capability. Amongst other things, they were: (1) too interested in strategy rather than digital channel operations, (2) underutilising specific techniques, such as programmatic marketing, and (3) unable to hire the right people easily.

Here’s what we think:

  1. Yes, marketers should strive to educate themselves on the ins-and-outs of digital channels. But marketing shouldn’t lose its soul in the process. There is a danger that digital channel marketing could dilute perceptions of ‘effectiveness’ to purely commercial metrics or bland indicators of interaction. Some marketers may be intimidated or fascinated by the possibilities of digital, but devaluing their strategic skills might ultimately prevent marketing from adding its unique value – a level of mid-term and more qualitative consumer focus (or even old school creativity) that provides future value and can even inspire or surprise an audience.
  2. Programmatic skill sets: yes, there is a need for client-side talent in this area – and this can be hired from ad-tech companies or media agencies. But the secret to lasting success through this channel is not entirely found in a technical knowledge of real-time bidding, but in the quality, consumer sensitivity and relevance of the content. The classical marketer’s toolbox remains an invaluable ally here.
  3. Is hiring in digital talent an expensive option vis-à-vis a learning and development programme? The most senior digital profiles can be expensive, but the important operational and technical skill sets that BCG outline as so important are often the preserve of those at a lower level who actually practice them, due to the speed at which the technology advances. Focussing on the hiring of more up-and-coming individuals who can work in alliance with existing marketers may ultimately be the most cost-effective accomplice to L&D.

Ultimately, effective and industry-leading digital marketing will require a cultural shift for most organisations. Training is of course a necessary tool, but to get ahead of the game, hiring the right people and creating an environment which champions experimentation and permits failure will ultimately reap the greatest rewards.

What might such experimentation look like? Randomised Control Trials – where a new initiative is applied to a treatment group and compared to a control group – are used for all sorts of business processes, but can be applied particularly quickly, easily, and affordably to digital endeavours. Google themselves are cheerleaders for this form of management – something worth remembering when you’re thinking about splashing out on the latest Learning and Development programme.

BCG perspectives: The Talent Revolution in Digital Marketing


Plutarch in no way claims to offer comprehensive statistical reports – the absence of numbers reveals that much, and individual confidentially remains his priority. Nonetheless Hunter-Miller's vast network offers compelling anecdotal evidence, and some occasionally interesting insights.

What would you be interested to know? Get in touch.