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Current Trends in the Creative Sector

25 Jan

The Creative sector is currently experiencing a boom as we hit 2013 – the year has started extremely positively, seeing an even split of demand from both agency clients and in-house companies. Freelance in particular has developed rapidly for the time of year; usually the first few weeks of January are slow burners but this year has seen recruiters inundated with requests for fast turnaround positions. This is all indicative of a shift in the recruiting patterns for businesses which have been hampered by the recession since 2008. 


The consumer shift in spending patterns has seen the Ecommerce market skyrocket in the last four years as the move to online transactions and streamlined processes becomes ever more prevalent. This has seen the demand for candidates with a strong Ecommerce background grow in the last quarter. Events like ‘Cyber Monday’, the UK equivalent to Black Friday in the US in 2012, saw online sales increase 26% on the previous year and highlight the importance of Ecommerce and emerging Mcommerce technologies. These factors contribute massively to the kind of candidates clients now want to see; everyone is trying to push their product or service above competitors and SEO and PPC expertise have never been more crucial. These candidates understand how valuable their skill set is in today’s marketplace and, as such, many of them choose to contract, increasing their earnings and giving them the flexibility to command higher day rates as they move between contracts. Debra Amini, MD of Digital and Ecommerce Specialist Recruitment Consultancy, Profiles Creative, based in the UK comments "I would advise any graduate interested in a career in Ecommerce, to take an internship in digital marketing or design that gives them direct experience in SEO, PPC, mobile marketing, UX or HTML 5. We will all soon be using handsets bigger than an IPhone but smaller than an IPad to live our lives. This is truly consumerism at a touch and any grad pursuing a career in ecommerce needs to understand this." 


Both the Fashion and Retail industries have recognised the importance of Ecommerce skills and also the shortfall of available candidates with both Fashion experience and an Ecommerce head. As a result, cross-pollination of talent can be observed between the sectors; Ecommerce candidates from a variety of backgrounds can now enter the fashion arena and apply their expertise. Debra Amini of Profiles Creative explains "The majority of demand within Retail lies at the senior Ecommerce level and user experience has become crucial within Fashion and Retail." Dennis Masel, Managing Partner at Creative Circle based in the US takes this one step further: "Brand and site owners are paying more attention to the "how" and "why" of their users’ online experiences, resulting in an increase in client requests for individuals with UX and UI skills." This, coupled with HTML 5 skills, becomes particularly relevant on complex global sites with a high volume of user interaction. 


The international market has experienced many of the same trends as the UK with a great increase in demand for UX and UI candidates who are in short supply. Dennis Masel of Creative Circle states "because this is a new discipline there is a shortage of really talented people and the demand is far outpacing the supply of talent. If I had a nephew or niece who was looking for a career path with huge potential I would strongly suggest they learn the world of UX and/ or UI." Debra Amini of Profile Creative states, "In addition, the international market is also now capitalising on UK homegrown talent – as Ecommerce is moving onto more of an international platform, many British designers are getting the opportunity to move abroad and recruiters are also seeing an increase in demand for candidates with multiple language skills." 


However, in the advent of online and digital, it is worth observing that there is still some demand for traditional techniques. Traditional Graphic Design is still very much alive, with strong print designers and creative artworkers being coveted by clients. Likewise, Senior Traditional Marketers with a proven track record of producing tangible ROI will always make for a walking placement. It would of course be foolish to ignore the massive impact online and digital Marketing have had on the industry. Debra Amini of Profiles Creative says "when we refer to the future of Digital Marketing we are talking months ahead rather than years and as such candidates with strong digital skills and a thorough understanding of all facets of Digital Marketing (online, social media, SEO, PPC, brand strategy, campaigns, etc) and the ability to evolve at the same rate as the industry are highly sought after. More so if they can demonstrate strong ROI in the digital arena." 


The Digital and Design arena therefore, by default, becomes the sector within creative which is constantly changing and consistently evolving. With the advent of tablet and smart phones, demand in this sector for UX/ UI/ HTML 5 candidates over the traditional flash designers continues to resonate. HTML 5 is particularly hot right now and is being touted as the closest replacement for flash on portable devices; the need for compatibility on smart phones and tablets is appealing to the discerning employer who can see the positive trajectory of technologies such as app development on user experience. The majority of these candidates are freelancers and not permanent candidates; therefore the Digital and Design market remains fast-paced and there will always be demand for these emerging skills. 


Candidates have evolved to meet these new demands from clients; traditional graphic designers have now adapted their skill sets to become digital designers, increasing employability and diversifying as the industry moves further towards digital. From the recruiters’ perspective, there is a skills shortage around solid Digital Designers who understand coding, good UX Designers, and strong search candidates with solid SEO/PPC experience; these candidates are consistently in high demand and as such don’t remain on the market for long. The industry is currently buzzing around Infographics Designers and this fashionable skill set is proving to be a valuable addition for any recruiter’s books. 


Moving into the agency world, it is clear to see that the structure of the creative agency has changed. AWR legislation has meant that companies are worried about employing freelancers long term anymore - after a twelve week period, these employees are now entitled to the same benefits as permanent members of staff and as such are a higher cost to a business. Agencies therefore are adopting a two-pronged approach to deal with this. Firstly, they are working their permanent members of staff harder. Secondly, they have changed their hiring specifications and are increasingly shifting their focus to ‘all-in-one’ candidates; hiring one person with multiple skill sets to cover a role which would traditionally have been split between two or even three specialist people. This shift makes the role of the recruiter more challenging. As margins are continually being squeezed and clients are trying to get the most for their money, it is the recruiter’s job to strike the balance between finding a permanent candidate who is the right fit for the company as well as possessing all necessary skills. 


As the creative industry diversifies, almost all agencies have become integrated, pitching services outside their normal specialism in order to win all the business they can. It is not unusual to observe agencies offering a range of solutions, from PR to brand, strategy and design where previously they might have specialised in one or the other. Therefore, the pressures that have been pushed onto recruiters as a consequence tend to be related to speed and timing: Client Services permanent recruiters are moving faster to secure the best talent ahead of competitors. Timing pressures are familiar to a freelance recruiter; however, as a client’s freelance needs are increasingly diversified, a good freelance recruiter must be able to provide freelancers across the spectrum – from design, development, and content, to client services, ecommerce marketers and PR freelancers. Debra Amini of Profiles Creative says "After 10 years in business we’ve had to change our model to mirror our clients’ needs. We centralised all our freelance consultants and ramped up considerably to be able to offer the full expertise on freelance that our agency and ecommerce clients are banging down the door for." 


In the current economic climate, employers are adopting a firm ROI stance when it comes to hiring permanently – "What is in it for me if I invest in you?" It is increasingly becoming a digital skills game – to keep time and pace in an industry which changes face by the seasons, employers need a fast, capable and adaptable team around them. This explains the constant need for freelancers over permanent employees. Our current fascination with having access to technology and usability wherever we are dictates the kinds of candidates in demand within digital and ecommerce. Debra Amini of Profiles Creative concludes "As the digital side of the industry is developing at such a rapid pace, recruiters have to be willing to diversify alongside their agency and ecommerce clients to keep momentum and a competitive edge in a demanding industry."

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