By Sindhu Sundar
Demand among marketing and advertising agencies for top mobile application programming talent will soar this year as tablet sales and mobile advertising spend hit record levels, marketing executives say.
Jobs search engine Indeed.com saw the number of jobs listing HTML5, a programming language used in mobile app development, increased exponentially since 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported. By comparison, IT job postings on technology job board Dice.com rose 40% this year versus last year.
"We watch evolving demand for new skills all the time," said Tom Silver, senior vice president, North America, of Dice.com. "And of the trends we’ve noticed, the growth and demand for mobile app developers is the strongest."
The change in the physical environment of mobile device users is also driving the trend.
"It’s a contextual shift between the fixed medium of PCs and mobile tablets," said Lisa Bridgers, recruiting director at Rogers, Ark.-based Rockfish Interactive, an interactive advertising agency.
The firm is planning to bring on more than 50 employees this year across its five offices, a third of whom will be developers.
App developers and Web designers will be most sought after, especially if they have some practical expertise in the iPhone and Android operating systems. The latter will be used in most new tablets this year. Programming skills in languages such as J2EE, C-Sharp and HTML5 will be in demand.
Some strategies also require working within the constraints of existing technolgy, where for instance, the iPad still doesn’t support flash, a mainstay of display ads.
"We’ll need to rely much less heavily [on Flash] or be able to provide interesting interactions without using it," said Adrian Taylor, group creative director of Springbox, an Austin-based interactive marketing firm, describing his firm’s move to more mobile business
But re-designing campaigns for mobile devices also calls for changing skills even among the IT savvy.
"If you were a web designer five years ago, you [built for] 20" screens," said Ben Kirshner, CEO of Elite SEM, a New York-based search engine marketing firm. "But web designers have got to get retrained now to build sites for smaller resolution screens."
IT job postings at Dice.com that listed iPhone and Android skills increased by three and four times versus last year, respectively.
"Although the absolute numbers are still relatively small compared to the average number of job postings, the demand for these particular skills are seeing the fastest growth," Silver said.
Mobile app developers made about $85,000 in 2010, according to figures from Dice.com. The average salary for tech workers was about $79,000 in the same period.
"I would fully expect, because the demand is so high, that [mobile app developer] salaries would need to go up really quickly," Silver said. "The growth rate and salary of developer jobs will be faster than those of any other [tech jobs]."
Increased interest of marketing and ad executives in technology has translated into increased involvement in events such as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
"The interplay between technology and marketing is growing tighter and more collaborative," said Tara Dunion, spokeswoman for the Consumer Electronics Association, the Arlington, Va.-based trade association that organizes the annual Consumer Electronics Show. "Marketing agencies need to hire people with digital media skills to leverage those opportunities."
Leaders from marketing firms have been a growing presence at the CES. A record 607 marketing and public relations executives attended the show in January 2011, almost 50% higher than in 2010. CES attracted a total of 140,000 attendees this January.
"People are expecting a [mobile advertising] experience tailored to a different way of engaging with information," said Dave Knox, chief marketing officer at Rockfish and a regular CES attendee. "Different agencies are taking different approaches to cater to this demand — some are idea-driven, others are technology-driven. We fall in the latter category."
Marketing professionals anticipate that while the growth of mobile device sales will cause a sharp increase in demand for specialized IT design talent this year, the effects of mobile digital technology will resonate through the ad industry for years to come.
"It’s not going to be any less digital as a world going forward," said Knox of Rockfish. "And we’re under the belief that if you dream something, you need to be able to build it."