Is Denver prepared for the shift?

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While the chances of print and outdoor advertising going away any time soon are slim to none, studies suggest that spending on alternative media, such as websites, micro-sites, content for mobile devices, email campaigns, and search marketing are poised to show the largest growth in terms of marketing dollars spent over the next five years. So the question is… How prepared is Denver?

According to Forrester Research, annual interactive marketing spending will reach $61 billion by 2012, which is estimated to be 3 times more than is currently being spent.

With faster connection speeds, greater home-computing saturation, and new mediums at which to reach consumers, such as podcasts, RSS feeds, YouTube, and MySpace, online advertising is becoming more and more of a viable marketing strategy with ever increasing levels of ROI.

As this trend continues to gain momentum, and more and more brands begin to leverage these emerging vehicles, how well is Denver poised to meet the demand for such a paradigm shift?

For anyone who has dropped by the job postings page recently, you may have noticed that there are over 10 current listings for interactive specialists of some form or another. We have talked to at least a few agencies in town who have begun to widen their search to a national level for these allusive professionals.

Being in such high demand, are these developers simply moving to more established landscapes, or is Denver simply a microcosm of a national drought? And if so, will the laws of supply and demand drive up salaries for these individuals in order to encourage more of the workforce to embrace the required skill sets?

So here is what we want to know from those of you on the front lines :

• In looking for human resources to help build or grow your interactive offerings, what luck have you seen so far, and if you have found who you were looking for, were these people found locally, or from out of state?

• If we are in fact coming up short, what will it take for Denver to meet the demand as it continues to grow?

• As an out of state interactive expert, does Denver offer a compelling case to bring one’s talents to the Mile high City?

• Are we experiencing a local unbalance, or are other cities experiencing the same mad dash to fill these roles, thus making the national competition even more fierce?


I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I was busy with my Zipatone over here at the light table.

Last year my (very) small firm finally saw our revenues tilt over to slightly favor interactive/rich media over everything else (including branding). Some of that is due to doing work for more purely internet-based businesses, with a focus on rich media marketing; but even in the dinosaur-class industries there was more call for stuff for the interweb.

To answer one of your questions more specifically: about two-thirds of my interactive contracty-type folks are out-of-state. Mostly because I am a hermit and live in a cave and don’t get out to meet the fine talent that I am sure is out here locally. But also because I know these out of staters are good; they come to me with a good book of work, and have experience dealing with larger accounts and a larger array of work. Not to say that our fine city doesn’t offer that experience—it does, but not to the degree that coastal behemoths do—resulting in less familiarity/comfort factor/whatever for us locals.

SO yeah, maybe we need a bit to catch up.

If you’re a talented local, by the way, and want to take umbrage with this, assuage your ego by instead sending me a link to your work and some contact info so i can look at using you next time. Don’t worry: my remote-controlled friends have enough work as it is ;)

I’ve seen a shift too in billings towards that.. and in some cases, traditional printed documents for clients are now PDF deliverables.

The design issues are still the same.. the media is different. Is Denver ready? Prolly. Because it’s already here. Most of the kids coming out of school have Dreamweaver and Flash loosely under their belt.. it’s a changing landscape and skill set..

To compete, we all need to offer these services. It’s no different than the shift from traditional typesetting and design/layout to computers.. Those that didn’t keep-up were out of work.. sorta.. or eventually.. this is the same deal.. learn the interactive language to apply your thinking.. or you’ll be out..

How ready is any graphic community? I’m guessing, with the schools doing an ok job turning-out kids with that skill set, the pipeline is being filled. And the existing folks will either need to keep-up, brush-up or pack-up.

Interesting questions.

Speaking to the search marketing side, I can tell you that demand far outweighs supply in Denver. Also, a large number of the people claiming to have experience in search/interactive marketing in Denver are pretty much novices. Sadly, a lot of agencies don’t really know what to look for, so they end up hiring halfwits who still think stuffing Meta tags and hiding text is the way to search engine success.

I think this is a nationwide trend. I’ve been doing search marketing for 5 years and the people who are good at it don’t worry about job security. Hell the people who are good at it don’t even advertise their services, they’ve got clients lined up for months if not years, and personal projects that more than pay the bills.

The big problem for Denver agencies trying to hire real talent in the search marketing space is that they are usually too cheap to pay what they need for someone good. They’ve got to realize that there is a crapload of money out there for search marketers who know what they are doing, and they can make that money without working for an agency.

It’ll be interesting to see if Denver will be able to attract or train the proper level of talent they’ll need to compete with the big search agencies that are cropping up in major markets. But for now, I foresee agencies continuing to build pretty websites that are completely unfindable, unindexable and unoptimized for search engines. I mean hell, I’ve seen Denver interactive agencies that advertise search marketing services but don’t have a single optimized page on their site…I mean, WTF?

Ok, end of rant. :)

This sounds like a PERFECT topic for one of the NDAC’s pod presentations.

Marketing Punk, would you be willing to do your part to help edumacate Denver on the errors of their ways? if so, contact me and I’ll help make it happen.

Can you use the World Wide Web to search for information?

Great topic. We have seen the wave coming for about 3 years. The demand is incredible for the interactive space, and yes, it is hard to find enough staff to keep up. There are super talented people here in Denver, but they seem to travel amongst the top 4 or 5 agencies. If you have worked in Denver for more than 5 years, you have probably been at our place, Factory, Texture, Spire, or some of the other smaller shops cranking out really high-end work. We have seen that the market is tapped out here for local talent as our clients are demanding very complicated marketing technology solutions. I personally have seen our industry explode with demand, especially on the strategic side, and it is way more than any of us in this city can keep up with.

Now that the mainstream is using technology to market their services, the growth will continue for at least 5 years – really there is no end to the success all companies in Denver can accomplish as long as we continue to invest in new technologies, and understand how all mediums are increasingly becoming integrated. In terms of Denver vs. the rest of the country, it is the same. Our friends in NY and London are in the same place as we – trying to keep up with the demand.

To address the questions:

• In looking for human resources to help build or grow your interactive offerings, what luck have you seen so far, and if you have found who you were looking for, were these people found locally, or from out of state?

We are increasingly looking for resources out of state, and out of country. We prefer to use home-grown talent, but everyone here is booked for months.

• If we are in fact coming up short, what will it take for Denver to meet the demand as it continues to grow?

We consistently need to look to the future and innovate with exceptional ideas. For Denver to compete, we need to make sure we are paid for our minds, not just the commodity of coding. Clients will only find value if the idea behind the code is amazing.

• As an out of state interactive expert, does Denver offer a compelling case to bring one’s talents to the Mile high City?

As the world is getting smaller, our clients are more national and international; theoretically bringing more opportunities that are bigger, more complicated, more interesting, more challenging and ultimately more fulfilling. Also the quality of life here is incredible, so we are able to pull staff from other parts of the country.

• Are we experiencing a local unbalance, or are other cities experiencing the same mad dash to fill these roles, thus making the national competition even more fierce?

Agree. Simply there are not enough people to go around – which means everyone in this business should have a very successful, busy, rewarding career, which in the long run is great for Denver.

We are prepared; we just need to continue as a community to work together and raise the awareness that Denver has incredible talent and can compete with anyone in the world.

The comment above about kids coming out of school with Dreamweaver and Flash skills is exactly what’s wrong here.

Many of the area’s agencies are behind the times when it comes to strategic execution of Web-based campaigns. There’s still an overwhelming mindset that “interactive” means launching an all-Flash Web site or slicing-and-dicing Photoshop layouts.

The smart ones are seeking skilled programmers, but they’re trying to get by on the cheap and chasing unicorns: 5 or more years of expert-level XHTML-CSS-JavaScript-PHP-ASP-ActionScript-Flex-SQL programming and client-savvy to boot…all for maybe 55K?

That’s outright laughable. These same skills in a corporate environment command 70K on the lowest end, upwards to 100K. And they know their front end from their back end…talent, that is.

Well said B!

The solution is in plain sight people (or should I say Agency owners and hiring folks). Everyone is looking for the perfect hire. And there are not enough of these people yet. Come on, the internet boom isn’t even 10 years old yet – well, the internet we now know. So, of course there are not enough experienced people out there.

The solution is to actually hire people and TRAIN them. Wow, is that a crazy idea or what. I know some of you are throwing your hands in the air and screaming “we don’t have the time for that crap!” But that’s the facts of life. Historically true for all industries. WW2 women enter the work force doing jobs they’ve never even heard of and kicking ass. Why? They were trained! I’ve talked to people who have jobs working if fields they didn’t go to school for and rocking it because they were trained.

I know we all work in a fast paced industry but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t put in place steps to better ourselves by bettering others. Just hire people with “the spark” and give them time to learn it. And none of that 90 days and you're out shit. We all know it takes years to learn what we do and do it well. In the end we will have well trained people who can really rock out the work.

All good things to those that wait.

We all know the best solution JDeans is to throw your ppl into the fire and watch them crisp up. Training, ha! Whatever happened to the sink or swim mentality?! That’s how I was introduced into the world of interactive less than 3 yrs ago! Actually, yeah, some training would have been pretty sweet.

“As an out of state interactive expert, does Denver offer a compelling case to bring one’s talents to the Mile high City?” I’ll take that one, as I am currently out of state…expert? hmm …I’ll go on anyway. Right now there seems to be a very high demand for anyone with interactive experience. In the bay area we are experiencing nation wide searches as well. Our clients are for the large part tech. Now that our tech clients are especially beginning to recognize the power of social media, and all its offshoots and the creativity and technology it takes to deliver it. We’re in a constant search to find folks to help us deliver just that. That search goes National often, Even International. We have had great success in recruiting young, hungry creatives and developers right out of school. Some as from far away as Sweden (checkout There is usually a little more investment in getting skills up, but the ideas are there, and they don’t have many preconceived notions of what is and what isn’t possible…and thats whats important right? Ironically I am relocating to Colorado to build an extension of our current agency practice. The creatives I have talked to in your area seem to have the right skills. Their experience isn’t a 1 to 1 mapping. We deal with lots and lots of technology clients here…while a lot of what I’ve talked to people about in Colorado is life-style clients and brands. Talent, positivity, and objective freshness seem to be very alive and well there.

So in answer to your question I would say “Yes” Denver does offer a compelling case to bring one’s talents to the Mile high City. Just an outsiders opinion.

Good point about grads only learning some of the software.. Not sure they even teach much SEO stuff in school. Most of the guys I know seem to have taught themselves over time. And we all learn more and more each day via experts, reading, etc. But I’d say it’s a good start that the grads are starting-out with some front-end basics.. some more than others.. it’s a headstart compared to years ago when finding any grad with that skill set was harder.

Since there is a growing demand for “web designers,” to put it simply, I want to make it be known- I could be lured away from my current web design position. I specialize in flash, eblasts, microsites, and have a traditional print background as well. Visit my site, which will be updated with new content soon.

A local Denver company called SpyderLynk has actually figured out a way to make a traditional advertising immediately interactive via an innovative mobile solution.

Print ads, bus shelters, point-of-purchase materials, signage or t-shirts can become interactive when the brand’s logo is encoded with some discrete encoding elements. Consumers use their mobile camera phone to snap a photo of the encoded logo and send it to a designated email address or phone number. The encoding triggers a response – responses can be rich, varied and tracked.

If you want to give it a try, we are looking for early adopters to test it out and will ensure the test costs are a drop in the bucket. It is a great way to offer consumers more information, unique information, access to a promotion or cool digital content.

Unilever is running a SpyderLynk program to promote Caress Body Wash in the April 14 issue of Star Magazine if you want to see it in action.

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