Russell Parsons: Brands should adapt to counter the talent shortage in marketing

There is a sense of underlying unease in marketing. It’s not lack of confidence in the economic prospects of UK plc, it’s more fundamental: a looming talent shortage.

Russell Parsons

I’ve had conversations recently with senior marketers who are concerned that marketing no longer has the pull it once did for bright, young talent taking their first steps. Those who would have used their considerable creative and strategic nous at the world’s biggest brands are eschewing them to work at startups or tech giants.

A recent study by recruiter Robert Walters has highlighted the challenge: 84% of businesses recruiting said they had experienced a talent shortage. Of course, this rather stark reading by one recruiter, in one country at a moment in time could be
a blip but it does chime with the concerns of many. The question of competing for talent came up at our roundtable with some of the Vision 100 – our exclusive club of the best and brightest working in marketing today and run in association with Adobe.

Highlighting the challenge faced by her employer and the other packaged goods giants traditionally seen as the great marketing universities, Weetabix group marketing director Sally Abbott summed up the challenge: “Years ago FMCG brands could tempt the best talent because they were the places graduates wanted to be and where they could earn their marketing stripes. Today, FMCG brands are not perceived as being as sexy as they once were.”

It’s an issue that was vexing another of our Vision 100, Mondelēz’s chief media and ecommerce director Bonin Bough, when we spoke to him in Cannes. He said marketers need to “step up to the plate” to change the talent dynamic, arguing that we as an industry are not doing enough to secure the talent pipeline. To counter this, Mondelēz has established ‘Fearless Talent’, which encourages marketers to work for a startup or launch a new product in 90 days, for example.

What once attracted the best and brightest, may not attract the visionaries of the future. The consequences of inaction are not necessarily clear and present: brands that do not shred their recruitment rulebook and start afresh will not wither and die, but the potential of a talent shortage needs addressing. As those on the roundtable conclude, visionary organisations, like visionary marketers, adapt to changing needs.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here