Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's All About The Talent

Thursday, April 3, 2008
It's All About The Talent
By Dave Morgan (Mediapost)


I've written a number of times about the important role that talent
plays in our industry; actually, the most important role that it plays.
People in our industry and the companies that they drive may credit
technology and algorithms for much of their success -- even putting
their technologies and algorithms on a pedestal in glass cases filled
with purified air, as if they were displaying the Hope Diamond -- but it
is the people that make things happen, not the mathematically driven
tools that they created and chose to exploit.

All too often, we in our industry lose sight of that fact. We find
ourselves paying homage to the technology, not the people that make the
technology precious by their ability to apply it to solve real-world
problems and create new value for themselves and their clients and

Why I am focusing on the talent issue? Because it is the biggest
challenge that we face in scaling the online ad industry. We know that
online advertising works. Marketers and their agencies know that it can
deliver results and return on investment. However, they need smart,
hard-working people with online experience to help them design,
implement and account-manage these programs.

What is our talent problem? We are growing our industry faster than we
are growing our talent base to support the industry. We have an industry
that is growing at more than 25% per year. We are not growing our
trained and employable talent pool at that same rate. Almost no one in
our industry, even Google, is able to effectively grow their teams with
experienced people that are also smart and creative at 25% per year.

Certainly, we all hope that we can use technology and streamlined
processes and scale efficiencies to manage that growth without having to
grow our teams at the same rate, but the reality is that our industry is
so dynamic and is changing so fast, and the growth is so constant, that
many of our problems can only be solved by applying smart, experienced
people to solve them.

What is the answer to our growth/talent dilemma? Start-ups are one
solution. Managing and supporting growth is why start-ups will continue
to have such an important role in our industry. No only do they bring
innovations into the market, and introduce, evangelize and drive most of
the new technologies and new business models, but they fill in the gaps
and the "white space" that market incumbents can't cover in a
fast-growing and fast-moving market. They are what help the industry
grow faster than most of its major participants can. They operate off
small bases and frequently double or triple their businesses each year,
permitting our industry to grow at 25% year over year when the majority
of the 10 biggest players in the industry are growing at less than 15%.
Yes. Revenue growth in the online ad industry is led from the bottom,
not just the top, with the very notable exception of Google, which is
setting a blazing growth path from the No. 1 slot.

Industry consolidation and its consequences also deliver a partial
solution to the growth/talent problem. When companies acquire others in
the market, be it competitors or start-ups bearing new technologies,
they frequently "release" many of the folks from those acquired
companies back into the industry talent pool.

You need look no further than Google's move this week to lay off a
significant portion of DoubleClick's domestic workforce, or AOL's recent
moves with some of its Platform A acquisitions. This infusion of
experienced talent is frequently scooped up by other market incumbents
or new start-ups. These folks are generally the most experienced and
versatile in the market, since start-ups generally require staff to
handle more, and more varied, jobs than they might at a much larger

Look no further than the comments from prospective employers of former
DoubleClickers on the Silicon Alley Insider story announcing Google's
layoffs [
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and desire the value of the talent that Google is letting go. As someone
who is in the early stages of planning a start-up himself, I am watching
the layoff roles closely as well. In an industry where it's all about
talent, I would much rather start with great talent than great
technology. Great talent can build great technology, but great
technology can't build great talent. What do you think?

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