digital talent

Matthew Housden has over 30 years’ experience working in consultancy and for well known brands, and the University of Greenwich lecturer is now taking over as chair of the DM Trust, the charity tasked with funding growth and good governance in direct, digital and data marketing.

He tells Marketing Week what he thinks are the biggest issues currently facing the industry – including digital skills, diversity and recruiting global talent – and how it must go about tackling them.

What is the DM Trust’s role in making the data-driven marketing industry fit for the future?

The DM Trust is about trying to attract the best talent into the industry. The other side is how we go about responsible marketing, and with GDPR that is going to become more important and the stakes are raised as well. Facebook just had a €110m fine in May for swapping data with WhatsApp, for example. We’re putting money into both areas.

As digital transformation gathers pace there is a real issue around keeping those who are in work up to speed with what is going on, and attracting those with the right skills who are not yet in our industry. We are competing against banking and systems logistics. We need the right people to keep the pace of change going, but there is a shortage. Recent research by Capgemini pointed to 77% of companies surveyed saying there is a shortage of digital skills.

What skills does the industry require?

The people we are increasingly looking for need to be able to have quite a special set of skills – being able to understand and make sense of data. We are looking for people coming from unconventional backgrounds into marketing. The DM Trust has been working with the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing’s Creative Data Academy to look at graduates from STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – and promote the fact that marketing is a viable and attractive career option. A few years ago they wouldn’t have considered marketing.

Has marketing been considered a career for humanities graduates for too long, because young people think it’s just advertising?

There is that, but equally we still need those people. With data, you’re looking at implementation and execution – you still have to have the brand positioning and proposition, and that comes from a variety of different skills. Marketing draws on so many different disciplines and combines them. There’s still room for that magic dust that genuinely creative people sprinkle on brands, but it’s now also about being able to manipulate and understand data. The key output of that should be to further the human interaction. Marketing is still about human relationships.

Academics such as Mark Ritson and Byron Sharp say marketing training today is poor. What’s your view?

Some of the…