The Talent Revolution in Digital Marketing

New Digital Capabilities Index Reveals Big Performance Gaps in Marketers' Skills

Companies’ Digital Capabilities Lag Consumer Behaviors in Key Areas Such as Mobile and Video; Priorities Also Misaligned with Digital Marketplace Trends, According to New BCG Survey

LONDON—Companies lack the digital capabilities they need to market effectively in today’s fast-evolving environment across a comprehensive series of skills and channels, according to research released today by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Making matters worse, marketers are focusing their efforts on channels such as websites and search, from which consumers have largely moved on, at the expense of developing more valuable skills in far more important channels such as mobile and video.

The new report, The Talent Revolution in Digital Marketing, introduces the BCG Digital Capabilities Index (DCI), which ranks companies on eight digital skills and seven channels against a best-practice score of 100. The average company in the survey, which included 57 companies based in the UK and Germany, scored 57. While a few companies ranked higher than 70, the majority fell squarely into the 55-to-60-point range. Industries such as retail and financial services were particularly weak.

Marketers’ priorities also reveal a disconnect with consumers’ digital behavior. When asked to identify their teams’ top three learning and development needs for the next 12 months, marketers across the board stressed strategy development and planning (an area of broad current strength). They attached much lower importance and priority to multiple areas related to execution and several fast-growing digital channels, such as video, which scored 43; mobile advertising, 37; display media, 27; and testing, 44.

“Companies are a lot further behind consumers than they probably thought,” said Dominic Field, a BCG partner and report coauthor. “The good news is that most companies are starting from the same place, and since digital talent is scarce, those that move quickly can open a lead that others will have a hard time closing.”

At the level of individual skills and components, there are clear talent and performance gaps in:

  • Video, particularly using the technology to keep consumers engaged with a brand (a score of only 38). Only 13 percent of respondents said their companies are good at this.
  • Mobile advertising, which received low scores across the board, with the lowest assessment being on using location data in mobile campaigns (36)—one of mobile’s most beneficial attributes for marketers—and a low score in using data to determine the right spending levels for mobile (38). Only 9 percent of respondents said their companies use location data well.
  • Display media. Advertisers have a serious shortfall of talent in the fastest growing and most important area of display advertising: programmatic advertising using real-time bidding (41).
  • Testing. In an increasingly data-driven function, one of the basic skills of an agile marketing organization is the ability to test, learn, adapt a campaign, then test again. But few advertisers (7 percent of respondents) use online channels as a testing ground for offline channels (for a DCI score of 34).
  • Partner management. Marketers are less than sanguine about the capabilities of their digital agencies and other partners and about the relationships they have with these suppliers. Less than a third of the respondents in our survey believe their creative or media agencies are at the cutting edge of digital marketing. Only 30 percent said they work effectively with their agency partners. While marketers are somewhat more positive about their ability to challenge their partners to get better results, more than half of respondents don’t see this as possible. Overall, partner management received a DCI score of 54.

“Digital technologies put powerful new tools in marketers’ hands, but companies need technical skills, both in-house and at their agency partners, to take advantage of them,” said Shuvo Saha, Director, Google Digital Academy. “There’s a big opportunity for those that move quickly to raise their technical game to establish competitive advantage over their competitors.”
The BCG report was commissioned by Google Digital Academy. The Knowledge Engineers contributed insights and advice. The report is part of The Talent Revolution Initiative, which includes Google, BCG, and a team of marketing industry experts.

A copy of the report can be downloaded at

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