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News 8 Jul 2021 - 3 min read

CMO crunch: Marketer demand up 50%; Domino’s CMO Adam Ballesty says squeeze on as job specs ahead of talent pool

By Danielle Long and Paul McIntyre

Domino's CMO Adam Ballesty says blue chips are making unrealistic demands on CMOs. None of the market's current top crop have the skills now being demanded in job specs.

The talent squeeze is on for mid to senior level marketing roles but at the top, CMOs are facing all new challenges. Blue chips want the kitchen sink – an entire new bundle of CMO skills across e-commerce, digital, data, retail, brand, tech, commercial and P&L reporting – at serious depth. 

    What you need to know:

    • Demand for senior marketers is surging, but brands and recruiters are asking for 'kitchen sink' CMO skill-sets with deep experience across brand, commercial, digital and retail – particularly e-commerce.
    • The return of expat senior marketers to Australia is fuelling competitive tension but newly hired Domino's CMO Adam Ballesty thinks brands asking for all of those skills may be disappointed.
    • He thinks they should instead invest in specialists to sit under a CMO – but warns narrower marketers to recognise the shift in front of them.
    • Recruiters see an emerging counter-trend: Senior marketers staying put and brands promoting internally.

    I was seeing briefs that wanted a brand person with a commercial background and the ability to manage an entire P&L, then came the digital piece, then came the retail piece and e-commerce ... That's wild.

    Adam Ballesty, CMO, Domino's

    Australia's sector-wide talent crunch is hitting marketing with some recruiters reporting demand soaring 50 per cent for mid to senior levels. But at the top, blue chips are running up serious wish lists. They want an entire new bundle of CMO skills across e-commerce, digital, data, retail, brand, tech, commercial and P&L reporting.  

    But what companies are specifying may not be what they’re getting – because it does not yet exist.

    “They want everything,” said Adam Ballesty, the recently appointed CMO at Domino’s, who thinks the pool of talent for the next wave of in-demand CMOs is all but non-existent. 

    Ballesty says some CMO roles he was engaged with before taking the Domino’s job added corporate affairs and investor relations experience to the CMO remit.

    I was seeing briefs that wanted a brand person with a commercial background and the ability to manage an entire P&L, then came the digital piece, then came the retail piece and e-commerce. I saw briefs where they wanted everything,” Ballesty told Mi3. 

    I’m really comfortable to have a team that sits across all those areas. But to have a CMO that is a technician across all those functions? That’s wild. Maybe the next generation, if companies allow them to move across the organisation.”

    Executive search firms echo Ballesty’s sentiment. Senior marketing roles have surged in the first half of 2021 – one firm cites a 50 per cent year-on-year increase – as companies hunt marketers with those multi-disciplinary capabilities. 

    Sectors where demand is particularly hot include retail, fintech and consumer goods. “Since January this year, we’ve experienced a massive spike, and there are definitely a lot of marketing roles that we are working on that are senior and high-profile," said Kate Ferguson, CEO of executive search firm Hourigan International. 

    “It’s a combination of new roles and the market catching up [post-Covid]. It’s a real mix in terms of categories, industries, and companies in terms of big-listed businesses and start-ups.” 

    Damian Tynan, a partner at Omera Partners, said the market had been quick to rebound after the pandemic's initial hit. “Obviously, April and May last year were terrible, but then June was incredibly strong. The market dropped off but then came back very strong. That strength has continued into this year.”

    Tynan said there is an appetite among companies for people with “the modern marketing skillset…a commercial marketer in the modern environment is something that is in high demand. Someone who can sell online and has e-commerce experience as opposed to digital marketing. Those skill sets are in high demand.” 

    Look at Lisa Ronson [Coles], Brent Smart [IAG], Josh Price [ex-Samsung] or Stuart Tucker [Hi-Pages], or the guys in the auto industry or banking – none of them at a senior level have got all that.

    Adam Ballesty, CMO, Domino's

    Kitchen sink specs

    But Ballesty, who previously was Asia-Pacific General Manager for British, non-alcoholic distilled spirits start-up Seedlip, now under full control of Diageo, suggests he is “too long in the tooth” to say he could do it all in terms of the variety of capabilities to the level of deep technical experience being stipulated by some brands for CMO roles..

    “I was just brutally honest about the skillset I have and that I would put up against anyone anywhere, any time: Commercially, brand marketing, all that process stuff – yes, done that. Have I transacted in e-commerce? Yes. At the scale some are doing, at the percentage of their business? No. I was dealing with Dan Murphy's and BWS. I had a Bundy [Bundaberg] website that pulled about five per cent revenue for the brand. So have I built teams? Yep. Scaled e-commerce? No.”

    When asked whether those CMO capabilities existed to meet new 'kitchen sink' job specs, Ballesty said: “I haven’t met one yet. Look at Lisa Ronson [Coles], Brent Smart [IAG], Josh Price [ex-Samsung] or Stuart Tucker [Hi-Pages], or the guys in the auto industry or banking – none of them at a senior level have got all that.”  

    Ballesty suggested the alternative is building a team that “has the stretch” to cover those broadening functions and capabilities. “It’s channel, communications, products, brand, distribution,” he says. “There’s a lot of performance stuff in there. You've got to be able to show an ROI, or sell things. I’m really comfortable to have a marketing team that sits across that.”

    Although Ballesty sees some potential for the next generation of marketers to become expert across e-commerce, data, tech and P&Ls, along with more traditional skills in brand, strategy and communications, he warns emerging talent will have to think “beyond Google, Facebook and Instagram algorithms" to stand a chance. "They are a channel. They have to operate strategically too. What is the brand and consumer need? What’s the messaging?" he said.  

    Returning CMOs

    Ballesty also noted the influx of expat marketing talent returning to Australia on market dynamics.

    A trend we are seeing is that there are so many senior people who are back home from overseas, and recruiters have got a lot of very senior people to choose from. It's very competitive,” he says. 

    Despite the senior talent pool, he thinks that brands and their recruiters might be disappointed in terms of their expectations as they rush to catch-up with the huge digital commerce shifts of the last year or so.

    “Not all senior roles here have that oversight," says Ballesty. "Some very senior marketing roles do not have that P&L responsibility and are literally there to grow mental availability. Some roles have oversight of e-commerce but not hands-on transactional experience," said Ballesty. "I’m not sure how many local marketers have that range of broad experience.” 

    This is fuelling a counter-trend, where marketing people are staying put and companies are looking at internal talent pools to fill more senior roles.

    "We are seeing more internal promotions and people rising in the ranks through companies, which is also opening up opportunities for new entrants,” says Hourigan’s Ferguson. “We do a lot of work with a consumer goods business, which has recently promoted two people internally, and that has opened up new opportunities within the business." 

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