Debate: Junior marketers’ understanding of traditional channels

When hiring junior- to mid-weight marketers, a level of digital competency is anticipated due to age. Is it therefore necessary to look for particular competencies relating to traditional channel understanding? (If so, what do you look for?)




Peter Noblet

Senior regional director, sales and marketing, Hays

Affirmative – Yes, employers still look for candidates with a good level of traditional channel understanding. Even when recruiting for a pure digital marketing role, candidates are still required to possess a good understanding of traditional principles. Irrespective of the primary channel being used, it is necessary for marketers to understand these basics. This is because eDMs and social media channels are rarely used in isolation, and instead are part of a broader integrated marketing strategy. As such, digital marketers are often required to work with colleagues in an offline space so that complementary campaigns can be coordinated. To facilitate this process candidates are still required to have knowledge and understanding of traditional channels.

The level of this understanding varies depending on the particular role. For example, an employer with a junior digital vacancy will generally require candidates to have a basic understanding of traditional marketing methods, rather than necessarily a high level of competency in this area. Candidates for mid- level roles by comparison generally commenced their career in a traditional position before moving over to specialise in the digital space and as such possess a higher competency in this area.

It is also worth noting that we are seeing a rise in the demand for junior- to mid-level candidates with basic to intermediate design skills, such as Adobe InDesign or Dreamweaver. While traditionally some companies have used agencies for smaller projects such as updating website content, creating newsletters and eDMs, they are now bringing these skills in-house.


ShanePerdueShane Perdue

Digital and creative strategist, Precinct

Negative – Digital is traditional. If you are a competent digital marketer, you are a competent traditional marketer.

The success of digital marketing is founded around the basic marketing principles of knowing your audience and how to connect with them. This success is enhanced by understanding the traditional human nature of sociability: our ability to choose, collaborate, interact and share our ideas and point of view with others.

Regardless of age or generation, marketers need to understand both, and this is what our agency looks for when hiring. It’s not about the channel; it’s about the sociability of a campaign or message. It’s about knowing how to trigger a response and enable a continual set of interactions and conversations within communities and networks.

Being competent in digital also means that you understand that the traditional marketing techniques – or one-way communication, where static content is pushed through a channel – has become stale and ineffective. It’s simply not enough; audiences want more. They expect to be marketed to on their terms: what, when, where, how and, most importantly, from whom.

This ability, an innate understanding and interest in people and how they behave, combined with the courage to ‘lean forward’ and anticipate how audiences will want to be communicated with in five years’ time, ticks all of the boxes for me.

Many say that digital is just another channel and that young marketers should not get too obsessed with it, but I disagree. Let’s face it, the future of marketing is digital and all marketers should embrace this.


ChristineKhorChristine Khor

Director, Carrera Partners

Affirmative – Good marketers understand people and execute good ideas. Connect with the emotion or motivation, and it doesn’t matter what age, generation or channel. It’s about having the strategic sense of how to engage customers, and create a great experience.

It gets a bit tiring hearing and reading the debate of traditional marketing versus digital, and I consider it to be an interesting failure. Digital is another world and in multichannel strategies forms part of the plan. We are often asked about the skills needed – today and in the future. There can be a tendency to overreact somewhat and for businesses to think they have to have digital, because it’s the latest thing.

But the reality is our world isn’t perfect. Traditional channels are still alive – OOH, print, PR, events etc all have a role to play and are in demand. Until all customers use the same medium and understand marketing messages, there will always be a need to look for the traditional competencies and channel understanding. You still need to understand the business, join the dots and determine the best channel to communicate the message.

Marketing today is fast and furious, but let’s not overcook it. Some traditional skills are timeless and today it’s about adapting your writing and behaviour style to what the channel demands. The core skills of understanding the customer and managing and leading brands remain as strong as ever, and these skills are what we look for, as well as the new media mix. We operate in a world now where technology and behaviour evolve faster than businesses can adapt – and everything is more than before.


MattGranfieldMatt Granfield

Marketing manager, Heritage Bank

Negative – Well, you’ve got to presume they can use Word, but beyond that I don’t think any level of digital competency can be assumed just because the person is young. A Facebook account does not a social media guru make, nor does the ability to hit the ‘AutoSUM’ button in Excel make them a brilliant statistician or consumer insights manager. You’re also assuming junior- to mid-weight marketers will be young, which ain’t necessarily the truth. Either way, some marketers have a natural tendency to be great copywriters and they get put in charge of DMs. Others like to chat, so they’ll be great at PR. Many are focused taskmasters who can slave away all day reporting on campaigns. Others still will be ideas people who come up with the whacky stuff we need to prevent us from running Brand Power commercials all day, every day.

People in digital roles will usually have one, some or all of those traits, so, if you’ve got the luxury of a large digital team, you can find the person to fit the role. If you’ve only got one digital person, you’ll probably want them to be a jack of all trades. And whether they have digital competency or not, you’re better off training up someone with talent than going, ‘Oh look, you use Pinterest, you can be our social media manager/SEO analyst.’

At the end of the day, though, the only thing I assume about any young junior- to mid-weight marketer is that they won’t be able to spell and their attention to detail will have waned by a decade of watching two-minute online videos about cats. I had a 30-something representative of the country’s best communications agencies give a presentation to me and a few senior executives the other day and one of the headings he’d used was ‘Socail Media Strategy’. I’m not even kidding. Suffice to say, he didn’t get the job.

Agree? Disagree? Join the debate via the comments section below, TwitterFacebookGoogle+ or Marketing‘s LinkedIn group.


Cover image attribution: Connie Shu (CC BY 3.0) via The Noun Project.