Marketers on why the industry must unite to make marketing a more exciting career option

Failure to celebrate marketing will result in young people overlooking the wealth of opportunity a career in marketing can offer.

A concerted, cross industry effort to sell the virtues of marketing to school and university students is required if brands are to avoid a future recruitment problem, according to a panel of senior marketing executives and academic experts.

A wide-ranging study commissioned by Marketing Week earlier this year found just 3% of undergraduates thought marketing offered them the best career opportunities. Lack of awareness, negative perception and limited understanding of what marketing is were the main reasons behind its lowly standing.

Discussing the need to work harder to attract talent, panellists at at an event held by marketing consultancy Oystercatchers, which is owned by Marketing Week publisher Centaur Media, said more needs to be done.

According to Pippa Glucklich, CEO of Dentsu Aegis’ media investment arm Amplifi UK, a more coordinated approach is necessary.

“More cross industry initiatives are required. Lots of companies are doing their own thing. Dentsu Aegis does The Code, going into schools in sometimes quite difficult areas to sell what we do. But it is us doing something our own way and others doing something different.”

Big companies like BT demonstrate the depth and breadth of the job of marketing, according to its chief marketing and brand officer Zaid Al-Qassab. “We have jobs in marketing, in communications, in PR, in sponsorship and in media – everything the world of marketing has to offer… Big companies that do a lot of marketing have a big advantage, we just need to sell it better.”

Education expert and vice chancellor of The University of Buckinghamshire, Sir Anthony Seldon, said he was “stunned” by the low number of undergraduates that considered marketing a career option, saying that marketing and advertising was considered “exciting” and for the “crème de le crème” when he left university.

Big companies that do a lot of marketing have a big advantage, we just need to sell it better.

Zaid Al-Qassab, BT

Both he and Glucklich stressed the importance of increasing the diversity of those coming into the industry.

Seldon added: “It’s a fantastic profession. You just need to talk more [about the opportunity it presents] and also encourage students from black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds to come in more because there’s so much more talent that is underdeveloped that would love to come into it.”

Visha Naul, industry partnerships marketing lead at Google and winner of the WACL Future Leader Award, said communicating marketing’s contribution within companies is also important.

“We need to market marketing in businesses too. Beyond the marketing team you need to be make sure that everyone knows you have a strategic role in the business. We don’t really do that very much. That would help with talent as you might start to draw in talent from other teams.”

A poll of the client and advertising professionals in attendance at the event found almost half (49%) said school outreach programmes were the best means to boost the attractiveness of marketing as a career option. Second was mentorship from senior leaders (21%) and third a campaign to address poor perceptions.

READ MORE: Why brands need apprenticeships to widen access to marketing careers

The need to develop and retain staff was also discussed. Al-Qassab said the need to have a framework that enabled continuous learning was paramount to develop employees personally and professionally.

“Companies are about getting the best out of people and if you let them find their own way, that’s fantastic. If in a company like BT with 1,000 marketers we can improve them by just 1% that’s like hiring 10 new people and that’s also fantastic. Beyond that it works because fundamentally human beings like life-long learning and the more you offer an opportunity for people to learn, the more they feel that personal growth, the more they give back and the better they are in business and personally.

“I deeply believe that’s how people are and you need to open that world to them.”

Seldon added life-long learning was undervalued in the UK with too much focus on facts.

“The biggest lie we are being told is that education stops when we leave school or university. It just doesn’t. The best people on earth are those that are learning until their last breath. So much learning is fixed on information. There’s something deeper than information which is knowledge. There’s something deeper even than knowledge and that is understanding.

“Below even understanding is wisdom and wisdom is the best thing imaginable. Work with people who are wise and it is fun as they are endlessly energetic.”