Marketers must work much more closely with academia to develop the kind of data and analytics talent that will be needed to fuel business growth and meet the challenges of a future, data-intense industry.
That is the key finding in a new study by the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF) of industry executives, academia, undergraduate students, and new hires intended to diagnose talent disconnects across key industry stakeholders and propose solutions. The report marks the first time all three groups — industry, academia, and students — have been surveyed on the data and analytics issue.
The study, Bridging the Analytics Disconnect: Charting a More Data-Driven Pathway to Growth, identified three separate “disconnects” among the three key stakeholders in the area of data and analytics.
In the first disconnect, the report revealed that students studying marketing lack the mathematical skills and background needed to effectively interpret and implement the vast amounts of consumer data currently generated by most major marketers. Instead of viewing marketing and advertising as quantitative, they tend to consider it more qualitative.
“At my institution … students who gravitate toward advertising are not math- or computer-skills oriented,” said Saleem Alhabash, associate professor of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University, who participated in the study. “The perception is that advertising is not a math-heavy major. These students often lack the confidence necessary to acquire analytics skills.”
The second disconnect was that a handful of obstacles exist that prevent companies from providing real and contextualized data to academia, which restricts educators’ ability to connect data and analytics to business outcomes.
The report said barriers preventing a more fluid research partnership between academia and industry include:
- Disconnected expectations between “real world” and “perfect world.”
- Lack of a “business mindset” in academia.
- Data confidentiality that might give away a marketer’s competitive advantage.
- Company clearances difficult to secure.
The third disconnect pointed to employers placing a premium on the combination of hard and soft skills together with a business mindset. “Soft skills” included teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, writing, and presentation skills. Hard skills included specific domain knowledge or training in highly technical software programs and products.
“What this research uncovered was that interviewed respondents felt that technical skills were readily available,” the report stated. “What is lacking is the technical skill combined with softer skills to influence business decisions.”
“This report clearly displays the urgency with which our industry must address this issue,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “The use of data and analytics in marketing will only grow exponentially in the coming years, and it’s essential that we develop the talent we will need to use those tools in the most cost-effective and productive manner possible.”
The study recommended that marketers and academia turn to a variety of ANA initiatives and training programs to address the disconnects and strive to achieve certain goals:
- Update the perception of marketing and advertising from just fun and creative to include quantitative and analytical. The study urged marketers to utilize the ANA’s recently introduced “Best Jobs Ever” campaign, which includes a video that highlights a wide range of marketing-oriented jobs that most young people are not aware exist.
- Build bridges between professors and analytics executives to produce marketing and adverting case studies for the benefit of students.
- Offer broader softer skills for data and analytics executives and students entering the advertising and marketing industries.
The report was based on more than 150 interviews and was conducted in the fall of 2019. Those surveyed included CMOs, ad agency executives, university professors, deans, career service directors, research directors, directors of analytics, new hires, and college students. The AEF conducted previous “disconnect” studies that focused on talent (2017) and diversity (2018).
To download report CLICK HERE.