Will it be "Liberal arts poet types" or quant analysts? I think over the long term we'll clearly need both, but as someone who fits somewhere in the middle, and more frequently fits the qual jobs than the straight quant jobs, I can see the problem in viewing this as black and white.
In this mediapost article "Industry Execs Find Opportunities In 'Deep, Dark Period' Tim Hanlon, EVP and Managing Director, Publicis' new media unit VivaKi Ventures suggests that "agencies have to increasingly invest in data-focused engineering-mind talent rather than "liberal arts poet-types."
Jim Spanfeller, president and CEO of Forbes.com did not agree. In his view, "[at] the end of the day, agencies are about big ideas...I worry when it becomes too much about data churning."
The question is, for agencies, how much can you bill for the idea vs. "measurable media." At the point where digital dollars are cut, some clients will want to cut the pure idea-generation first. The optimization of ad buys and e-commerce sites using customer segmentation, behavioral targeting, multivariate testing and ad networks and exchanges require talent who can crunch the increasingly complex data coming out of digital advertising activities. I recall seeing a report on viral advertising which took graduate level-statistics and epidemiology to produce; definitely not your typical "narrow tie" ad man's talents.
But the people who have a feel for the brand, who think of new approaches, who develop long-term plans...what of them? Truly empathic work around a brand that connects a company with its customers and inures them to the company for the long term. I believe that smart managers on the client side know this, but truly smart management, and truly exceptional companies, are rare. So what is an agency to respond to? Is it equipped to fight its clients, to fight for long-term value creation and its digital instincts?
See the agency layoffs twitter @adagencylayoffs; there are shops hiring, but a lot of people are being let go.