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Advertising Companies Seek Technical Skills

Creativity is still at the heart of advertising. However, in today's high-tech world, many ad agencies now look for technical and analytical skills, too.

"New skills [in demand] include the skills needed to write code, create digital advertisements, develop websites, [and do] statistical analysis, and the ability to optimize creativity, content and social media," says Shelly Rodgers. She's associate professor of strategic communication at the Missouri School of Journalism.

"While you won't find all of those skills in one person, those are all skill sets now being sought by all competing agencies," says Sherry Schneider. She's a market research and data analytics recruiting manager for a staffing agency in Detroit.

"And this is still a candidates' market, meaning there are more opportunities for these niche skills than there are people for them," Schneider says.

The growing role of technology in our lives is prompting advertising agencies to create new positions. Schneider says that some key ones include social media marketing, mobile marketing and mobile app development. Other positions involve determining how to measure the effectiveness of social and mobile marketing.

"Advertising agencies will always need creative talent. But having technical skills as well will put a candidate at the front of the bus in regards to his or her chances of getting hired," says Paul Cookson. He's the founder of an advertising agency.

The many mobile and social media tools in our lives don't just help us connect with one another. They also help marketers make connections between consumers and products.

"As our dependence on electronic media heightens, so will companies' ability and desire to collect user data so they can understand who we are, what we like, what we consume and what we will likely want to buy. So marketing and advertising can be delivered to us where we are," says Schneider. "[For example,] the online pop-up advertising you see [is] tailored to you based on your online activity."

Advertising technology companies collect an enormous amount of data, says Rodgers. Corporations, government agencies and non-profits also collect data. All of these organizations are then confronted with the task of what to do with all the consumer data they collect.

This is why companies of all types need professionals who understand interactive marketing and website analytics, says Rodgers.

Advertising is all about getting noticed. And a big part of getting noticed online is having a top ranking in the main search engines.

"Advertising agencies seek Internet technical experience such as search engine optimization content writing and site programming because of the extreme importance of ranking on page one of Google searches in today's business climate," says Cookson.

Not every advertising agency does all this stuff in-house. But having these skills can be the edge that gets you a job offer.

"Many ad agencies farm out the web design and SEO (search engine optimization) portion of a client's business. But savvy ones have their own web design and SEO team in-house that's stacked with the brightest talent," says Cookson.

Marketing schools are adjusting to this demand for technologically savvy marketing professionals.

"All of the schools focusing on Creative and Marketing are offering the cutting-edge technologies used by agencies today. [These include] Flash ActionScript and web development tools," says Schneider.

"The most sought after analytical tools are SPSS, SAS, Advanced Excel and Omniture for the analysis of everything from marketing/advertising effectiveness to website traffic."

"Students entering marketing/advertising absolutely need to be more technologically savvy than ever before," says Rodgers. "And not only technologically savvy, but quantitatively savvy as well."

Quantitative research involves analyzing things that can be expressed in terms of numbers. It's about using math to explore relationships and to find patterns in the data.

"There are more academic demands than ever being placed on our students," Rodgers adds. "Besides course work, they must conduct... research for client projects as part of their courses in strategic communication. And this requires a strong quantitative background."

The big demand for analytical and technical expertise in advertising might be due in part to the high salaries paid to workers in the finance and technology industries. Top talent tends to go where the money is.

"The main reason there is a shortage of technical/quantitative skills at advertising agencies is because there are so few individuals out there who have these skills," says Rodgers.

"The ones who do have the skills are able to pick and choose where they want to go and what they want to do. And they can pretty much set their own salary because they are in high demand."

Schneider says many people with technical skills simply aren't aware of the opportunities in marketing. Also, the salaries aren't always higher in finance and technology, she says.

"I think it's still an effect of math- and technology-oriented students being unaware that there is a high demand for their talent in the marketing space," says Schneider.

"Marketing sciences often has higher salaries than I've seen in traditional finance or technology."

Will the demand for technologically savvy workers continue to grow in the advertising field? "Yes," says Schneider. "It will continue [to grow] with our dependence on technology and with online shopping."

Cookson agrees that demand will continue to increase.

"Approximately seven out of 10 decisions are either done online or researched online previous to making a purchase," says Cookson. "These numbers will continue to grow and so will the need for people who have the technical skills to get a website to page one of Google searches."

Rodgers sees a bright future for those considering a career that combines technological and analytical ability with marketing skills.

"The demand for technologically savvy professionals will continue to grow, probably a lot, in the advertising business," says Rodgers.

"When the Internet first [arrived] in the early '90s, the metrics were pretty straightforward (e.g., a hit, a click, a visitor, a unique visitor). Now, we've gotten a lot more sophisticated with our metrics. And the popularity of social media is, once again, challenging existing metrics to include things like engagement and use of the 'like' aspect in Facebook."

It certainly seems that online shopping and social media are here to stay. "It's now just a way of life for most," notes Schneider.

More and more, this new online reality will require advertising agencies to have technologically savvy workers on their teams so they can continue to reach consumers.

"As our desire to [interact] electronically increases, the obvious need for technology-focused careers increases," says Schneider. "Advertising is about reaching consumers where they are."

And where are they? They're where you are right now -- online.


Google Analytics
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American Marketing Association
Check out job listings and other career resources

Advertising Educational Foundation
Read career stories and advice from advertising professionals

Ad Army Group Advertising Agency
Paul Cookson's advertising agency

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