The problem with digital marketing training
From lack of comprehensive courses on the subject to a dearth of opportunities to apply newly learnt skills, digital marketing is a tricky but favoured career option
Digital tools are redefining marketing. Yesterday’s Chief Marketing Officer is today’s Chief Marketing Technologist. Digital is the new shiny thing that all brands are toying with. Every agency and publisher is gung ho about digital marketing and its CAGR of 30 per cent. There is just one problem: comprehensive courses and qualified talent.
The talent crunch in the world of advertising is no secret. Over years, the best talent has moved away from the agency business, leaving advertising agencies with limited talent to choose from. Digital has amplified this crunch because most professionals are trained in traditional marketing and not digital. Therefore, agencies and marketing teams are tasked with reskilling and upskilling talent for the digital world.
Leading B-schools in the country have been contemplating introducing a digital marketing module for a long time but have made limited in-roads with offering a comprehensive course. The biggest challenge: “there are no theories or concepts,” says Ramendra Singh, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. Singh is the Programme Director for the IIM-C digital marketing course that was introduced two years ago.
At a time when every marketer, agency and consultancy is only speaking the language of digital business transformation, the All India Council for Technical Education suggests just four elective courses in the MBA programme that are centered around digital: Digital and Social Media Marketing, Managing Digital Innovation and Transformation, E-Commerce and Digital Markets, and Managing Digital Platforms.
Faculty at B-schools are far removed from the practice of digital marketing and “depend on industry practitioners to teach these courses,” says Singh. IIM-C now offers one 30-hour elective course on digital marketing for its PGP students and a 15-hour course for the executive programme. “But what can you teach about a vast topic like digital in just 30 hours?” asks the head a Mumbai-based digital agency.
While B-schools are still figuring out the best methods to teach digital marketing, numerous training institutes have cropped up to fill the need gap. These training institutes offer corporate courses to upskill talent within agencies and full-time and part-time courses for freshers/mid-career talent.
The precursor to training institutes were in fact short one-day two-day workshops, that really could not do justice to the subject “because of the practical nature of the subject,” says Rashmi Putcha, CEO, The Digital Marketing Training Institute (DMTI), Mumbai. She along with a council of top industry leaders founded DMTI in 2012. Now the institute offers full-time, weekend only, weekday only and several certificate courses in digital marketing.
Many who aspire to pursue digital marketing also sign up for online courses from one of the many open online course platforms. However, Putcha feels that purely online courses cannot be very effective in truly mastering digital marketing.
The courses and certificate courses offered by platforms such as Google or Facebook do help in padding up CVs to land a job. "That's just how far the certificate courses can take you," says a content marketing executive at a fin-tech firm.
Even with the practical training that some training schools offer, the real learning takes place only on the job. “These courses end up teaching very basic concepts which mid-career professionals are already acquainted with,” says a digital media executive who upskilled himself at a part-time programme from a digital marketing school. He points out the irony: “industry professionals are not the best teachers and faculty at B-schools and C-schools don’t know the subject.”
It is a wide belief that digital marketing cannot be taught. It can only be learnt on the job. “For our industry it is all about practice,” says Pooja Jauhari, CEO, The Glitch. “Therefore, we hire people who are hungry to learn, and build capabilities within teams that can be transferred to freshers who join,” she explains.
But learning on the job is also hard to come by, some say. Marketers suffer from the problem of finding opportunities to implement their digital marketing skills. Only 15 per cent of the total ad spend goes towards digital marketing. Also, very few advertisers are hands-on about digital, as often digital is outsourced to agencies. So, “a trained digital marketing professional needs to be lucky to find herself in a team that works with the digital medium,” says the digital marketing head of a technology company.
Until digital marketing as a subject is researched upon extensively to build models, concepts and theories, aspirants will need to make do with short-term programmes, certifications offered by platforms like Google, Facebook and MOOCs, says Singh. Shams Jasani, Group MD, Isobar South Asia, believes that an either or approach does not work when it comes to an MBA vs Digital Marketing Training Programme. He advices digital marketing aspirants to pursue a masters in marketing/MBA and layer that with training in digital marketing.
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