Skills shortage means adtech companies paying over the odds for ‘average talent’



The boss of one of Australia’s biggest programmatic advertising platforms has warned the over supply of advertising technology companies is leading to a skills shortage where agencies and clients are overpaying for “pretty average talent”.

Speaking at yesterday’s Mumbrella Programmatic for Marketers session in Sydney Kerry McCabe, managing director Asia Pacific at RadiumOne, argued the industry needed to do more to broaden the talent base in the programmatic advertising space.

“There are a thousand adtech companies in Australia,” said McCabe. “Its a pretty small market so there is this massive supply and demand issue. That leads to a situation where, not to mince words, there is a lot of money being paid for pretty average talent.”

This view was backed by fellow panel member Andrew Hughes, a digital consultant with Louder, who described the challenges many agencies face in training staff in emerging areas such as programmatic: “Beyond doing what most agency groups are doing, which is investing in training and education, there is not much more we can do.


Hughes: Investment in programmatic training and education needed

“The challenge is that you bring young people in straight out of university and they spend two years working with people who you probably brought from other markets and they promptly double their salary and go somewhere else.”

McCabe also said that in some instances a lack of knowledge and understanding led to a situation where people with limited programmatic expertise were being paid large salaries, but argued that it was up to the industry players to focus on training.

“It’s because they are buying someone who has put together RTB (real time bidding) schedule and therefore they are worth a shitload of money,” he said. “I think the challenge is really are we hiring traits or skills?

“That’s easy to say but it’s hard to have the discipline and guts to put the investment into people, but what we are finding is that if you are hiring the right traits: intelligence, tenacity, attitude, curiosity, then teaching the skills is possible. This isn’t rocket science.”

“The temptation is I have to hire someone who is great at this already because we need to hit the ground running, but what we are finding is that the return on that is loyalty and over-performance.”

Starcom’s executive director of digital Jason Tonelli told the room that agencies and clients needed to be more proactive in seizing industry training opportunities.



“Is there a talent shortage?” Tonelli asked. “Yes which is great for those few, but that is going to change and we need to start to educate more people.”

Tonelli cited a number of IAB, trade media and internal agency programs on programmatic to argue that it would be a major driver of future jobs and that it was the industry’s responsibility to educate itself.

“As an industry I see this industry creating more jobs,” he said.  “There is a lot of training out there but it is really about picking the right things and digging under the skin of what value you will get out of them.”

Hughes also argued part of the burden was on clients to insist on and pay for well rounded staff with the full skill set, beyond just a limited expertise in programmatic.

“How do you address that when there is such a skills shortage?,” Hughes asked.

“Maybe the responsibility sits client side to make sure they are getting the right people rather than picking up the people who have the immediate skills to pick up on a campaign.

“Or are they getting someone who is more well rounded and a strategic thinker?”

Nic Christensen 


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