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Global Media And Marketing Companies Seek MBAs For Digital Growth

As media and advertising companies become a blend of creative content and technological innovation, they are increasingly looking for new MBA recruits with the right skills to drive digital growth.

By  Seb Murray

Tue Nov 18 2014

Some of the biggest global media and marketing companies have said that to thrive in today’s digital business climate people and new hires need to be skilled in technology and data to address a looming skills shortage that threatens to derail growth.

On a visit to the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, the executive MBA specialist, Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy told business students that to be a pioneer in today’s world of advertising, people need to have a high technology quotient – a reference to the tech equivalent of IQ, or intelligent quotient.

The listed French advertising group, which has a market capitalization of €12.7 billion, employs 62,000 people in over 1,000 agencies.

Maurice said that big data is a “big issue”, particularly in the “new markets” of China, India and Africa, which have huge consumer bases and rising levels of internet and mobile penetration.

He suggested that leadership was important to Publicis, and said it is crucial to align people within a team. “I hate complacency, and I always like to think that the greatest success is yet to happen. If your team has the same spirit as you, you’re heading in the right direction,” Maurice said.

Highlighting the company’s push towards digital, the chief executive said: “We don’t live in a world of manufacturers anymore, in which companies used to design, develop, produce and distribute their products under the same roof. We all have to go for collaboration… We’ve started early to collaborate with Google, Facebook [and] Twitter.”

He said that he has “heavily invested” in digital since before the financial crisis in 2006. “I knew things were about to happen that would impact our industry in a game-changer kind of way,” Maurice said.

His comments echo a wider trend in advertising and the entire creative industry, and a preference among recruiters for digitally-skilled graduates for their MBA hiring tracks.

As media companies become a blend of creative content and technological innovation, they are increasingly looking for new recruits to take leadership roles in areas where MBA graduates are known to excel – marketing, finance and strategy.

Frances Illingworth, the global recruitment director of WPP, the world’s largest advertising group, said that she “without question” values MBA candidates who are skilled in data analytics. “How one looks at data and media data is critical to our business now,” she said.

WPP, which has a market capitalization of £16.4 billion, employs about 180,000 people globally. The company has relationships with business schools INSEAD and Harvard, and recruits from all schools for its MBA Fellowship Program – a scheme offering three one-year rotations in different WPP companies and disciplines.

Frances said: “I don’t think they [MBAs] need to be technically qualified, but they need to understand the impact of digital on the way clients operate [and] the way they sell products.”

WPP and its rivals have been investing in technology to take advantage of new ways of delivering adverts through online channels, as digital advertising has become the fastest-growing part of the advertising sector.

Publicis recently acquired Sapient, a Boston-based consulting firm, to help it grow in the high-tech side of the marketing industry, and was poised to merge with Omnicom, the US advertising giant, to compete in a new era of media and advertising increasingly controlled by technology.

Publicis said that its failed Sapient seal would create a “digital platform”.

During his talk in Germany, Publicis CEO Maurice said that as the world “continues to digitalize”, companies need to take fast decisions. “We are living in a time of speed,” he added.

Frances said: “Data is becoming an important part of how we look at the customer journey. We look at direct marketing and digital businesses… Then we look at it in media businesses in terms of media consumption, [and] how we measure that data is increasingly important.”

DigitasLBi, a digital marketing agency formed by Publicis to be the world’s “leading digital network”, plans to hire about 50 MBAs by the end of 2014.

The company, which has 40 offices worldwide, had about 5,700 employees just after being established from a merger in February this year.

Sophie Ling, DigitasLBi’s chief talent officer, said in an interview with BusinessBecause that there are career opportunities for MBAs in business transformation, marketing, branding, and technology transformation, as well as roles for analysts, business consultants and data scientists.

“We see digital marketing changing the organizational structure of brands and clients, and creating a new breed of chief marketing officer,” she said.

“We like to say that we pride ourselves on embracing the creative tension between the left and right side of the brain. These are analytical, strategy-heavy, data-driven times,” she added.

Sophie said that innovation and change “is everything to us”, and compared DigitasLBi to a cross between an advertising and marketing agency and a business consultancy.

“We bring creative and technological together to build solutions that mean our clients are fully digital,” she added.

This technological revolution has opened up career opportunities in other areas of the media sector as broadcasters begin to require new skills for the digital age.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the alliance of public service broadcasters, has turned to management education in the face of advances in digital technology and globalization.

The Eurovision Academy, its training centre, has been teaching the EBU’s 73 members in 56 countries about security, technology and leadership in a deal with IESE Business School of Spain and the US’ UCLA Anderson School of Management.

The three-week leadership course was delivered part-time over several months with the first week taught in Barcelona, the second in Los Angeles and the third on IESE’s New York campus.

The film industry in particular is facing a talent crisis, according to Ivan Dunleavy, chief executive of UK film studio Pinewood Shepperton plc.

Pinewood has teamed up with the Open University, which has a distance learning business school, to produce an online course on the commercial side of the film industry to help plug the talent gap.

The movie industry is building new skills which put it at the “leading edge of the new digital economies”, Ivan said at a conference in London last week.

“Video games are now huge business, and a huge new customer for all of our skills,” he said.

“We’ve also learnt to take advantage of new distribution channels that digital has created,” Ivan said. One of those digital channels is the TV industry, a rapidly growing segment of the Pinewood group. Television revenues rose almost 20% to £6.2 million in 2013. “We mustn’t let this success be put at risk by failing to look ahead and seeing the dangers on the horizon of a skills shortage,” Ivan added.