• IAB UK

Mind the Digital Skills Gap

Updated: Jun 4

IAB UK and Middlesex University join forces to explore the digital skills gap in the ad industry and provide advice on how to recruit and retain the best talent


Building a sustainable future for digital advertising is a key priority for IAB UK and one that can only be achieved if both new recruits and those that already work in the industry are equipped with the right skills to keep up with the pace of change as technology and automation evolve.  

By teaming up with Middlesex University, our aim is to highlight where the gaps in knowledge and training are most prominent and provide advice to help the industry educate, train and attract people with the right skills to match demand - both now and in the future. The results are based on a survey of 78 IAB UK members across October and November 2019. Of these, 67% are from advertisers, agencies or media owners and 70% are at senior/Director level or above. 


Key findings include:

  • 88% claim that finding qualified individuals with up-to-date digital skills is a challenge for their business

  • The most prominent skill gaps are in areas with rapid market adoption. Data and advanced analytics are key skills cited as being increasingly important, but also difficult to find

  • While having AI/AR/VR skills is currently not a big priority for the majority of businesses, the pool of experts is relatively small - leading to high demand

  • The skills shortage is most pronounced at junior and intermediary levels, with 46% believing that most new graduates are not equipped to take up careers in the digital marketing sector

  • Retaining highly skilled digital staff is also a challenge – 78% find it difficult to retain staff with sought after digital skills

What can be done to bridge the gap?

  • The digital advertising industry needs to work more closely with schools, universities and training providers to communicate which skills will be in demand in the future

  • As an industry, we need to work on attracting new recruits by showcasing the breadth of opportunities available. Practical education and modernised recruitment strategies can help to widen the pool of suitable candidates available

  • When it comes to retention, businesses should focus on providing long-term career progression opportunities, as well as creating an inclusive working culture that offers opportunities to staff to expand their digital skills and develop within the business

Commenting on the research, IAB UK’s CEO Jon Mew said: “At the IAB, our mission is to create a sustainable future for digital advertising. A key part of that is ensuring that both new starters and those with more experience are equipped with the skills they need to get the most out of our fast-evolving, innovative and complex industry. By shining a light on where work is needed to bridge the digital skills gap, industry, businesses and individuals all stand to benefit.”


Professor T C Melewar PhD HFAM, Professor of Marketing and Strategy at Middlesex University, added: “This survey shows how important it is to nurture the ties between the universities and the digital marketing industry. Our relationship at Middlesex with the IAB and employers in the digital marketing sector ensures that we are delivering the right skills to the industry, and equips our students to make the most of the great potential there is to flourish and build successful careers in this field.”


View the full report here, including views from industry figures including Natalie Bell, MD of Manning Gottlieb OMD and Rachel McDonald, MD of Dentsu Aegis North. 


For more advice on how to get into the digital ad industry, take a look at our Get into Digital hub.


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