WITH DIGITAL advertisements expected to account for 45% ad spend of the ₹1,07,897 crore Indian advertising industry in 2022, marketing and communication companies are increasingly using data analytics for reaching out to target consumer segments. This explains why conglomerates such as WPP, Publicis, Dentsu and DDB Mudra are roping in techies into their workforce. Publicis has been aggressively hiring data scientists/analysts, software engineers and web developers, says Anupriya Acharya, CEO (South Asia), Publicis. "There is not enough talent, so our agenda is to develop a talent pool." The company has built a strategy for hiring talent from Tier II/III tech and business school campuses. The company has also been hiring talent with strong tech background for leadership roles. "We recently appointed McKinsey partner Lalatendu Das as CEO of Performics India, a digital marketing agency. He was the founding member of McKinsey Digital Labs in Asia Pacific. Amaresh Godbole re-joined as CEO of digital technology business from Google India where he was head of creative and capability," says Acharya, adding that during the pandemic, the group's digital business grew 40-50%.

More than half of DDB Mudra's recent middle and senior management hires are from tech companies such as Google, Salesforce and Adobe. "We need techies not just to build and run sites and apps but also for programmatic buying and performance management. In fact, even in classic communication roles, we need people who understand digital and appreciate technology," says Aditya Kanthy, CEO and MD, DDB Mudra Group.

"We are flooded with applications," says Madhvi Pahwa, chief people's officer at Group M, adding there is mutual attraction between techies and marketing communication firms. The arm of WPP, Group M, hires engineers as well as people with analytical skills. "It's about processing data as well as technical skills. We need people who can code and know how to use Python. So, within tech, we have pivoted towards analytical and data skills," says Pahwa.

Image Crisis

Most entry-level tech hires are from campuses in Tier-II/III towns as biggies such as WPP or Publicis are not the first preference of IIT or NIT graduates. Tier-II/III campus students don't have access to good jobs and hence are attracted to the multinational tag of big advertising companies. The communication and marketing conglomerates need to work hard to attract top talent, says Aditya Narayan Mishra, CEO, CIEL HR Services. "They have an image problem on tech campuses. Most engineering colleges aren't aware of work done in tech centres of these brands. Bright minds on these campuses aspire to work for tech companies. Also, salaries offered by communication marketing companies are a notch below what top recruiters offer."

Kanthi of DDB agrees that the industry needs to invest and build a robust entry-level pool of techies. "There is a lot of good talent in Tier II/III India. They are brilliant techies but don't have great communication skills. We need to give them an opportunity to learn." DDB Mudra is building a structured entry-level talent pool in Tier II/III markets, says Kanthi. Group M, on the other hand, is actively hiring from engineering colleges in Coimbatore and Trichy.

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