MUMBAI: Ad agencies in India should pay higher entry level salaries to attract better talent, a leading client-side marketer has argued, although a top agency executive countered that all industries are struggling to find talent.

This theme was explored in a discussion with Campaign India involving Lloyd Mathias, CMO at Hewlett-Packard India, and Srinivasan K Swamy, chairman of agency RK Swamy BBDO.

Mathias asserted that agencies do face a talent deficit, partly because they're not able to attract very good candidates, but also because they don't pay enough, pushing talent towards banks, consultancies and other marketing organisations.

"Agencies have to recognise how to attract better talent and whether money is the key driver as against other factors," he said, adding that the solution is not just for clients to pay more, but for clients and agencies to work together.

"[It] does not mean the client will open their purse strings and pay more in commissions," he said. "Instead, they will work together to identify good talent because there is a significant belief that good people on the agency side help you get create value and better work on your brand."

While agreeing that entry level salaries have not increased in agencies and that all industries face the challenge of attracting talent, Srinivasan K Swamy pointed to the number of mid- and senior level people in the industry who are poached by others.

"To say that we don't attract talent seems unjustified," he said. "When promotions are delayed, you will see people migrating to areas where growth is available. This is a natural phenomenon across all businesses and industries."

"Agencies play a vital role in building brands and they have the same cost structure and are part of the same ecosystem as the advertisers," he added.

Whether Indian agencies really do face a talent deficit might be considered in the light of their performance at this year's Cannes Lions.

As reported by exchange4media, Indian agencies picked up 27 awards this year, including five Gold Lions, nine Silver and 13 Bronze.

They performed well in categories they missed out on in 2013, such as Cyber, Branded Content & Entertainment, Direct and Mobile Lions.

They won two Gold awards in the Media category – for PHD India/Lowe & Partners – but there were no shortlisted entries in the Titanium & Integrated Lions category and none also for Creative Effectiveness.

Data sourced from Campaign India, exchange4media; additional content by Warc staff