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CMOs at top US companies place the highest value on creative thinkers and leaders when they are looking for new hires, but 39% say they are dissatisfied with the availability of qualified employment candidates, according to research from Epsilon.

Only 5% of CMOs say they are “very satisfied” with the qualified talent pool of candidates when ‘qualified’ is defined as “someone who is able to handle their responsibilities on day one.”

Hardest-to-Find Characteristics

The CMOs in the survey also said that finding employees who provide leadership and inspiration, and who are forward thinking,? modern and creative were the hardest to find:

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“These survey results show a significant number of unsatisfied hiring decision-makers who are anxious to find candidates with marketing talent,” said said Epsilon CMO Steve Cone. “The results suggest that while hiring may be slow in 2009, job seekers who combine creativity and leadership with data mining or digital experience will have ample opportunities in corporate marketing or the agency side of the business.”

Apple Most Admired by CMOs

The research also asked CMOs to name the companies they feel display “best practices” in their marketing efforts and found that Apple – far above all others – does this best.

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In fact, with the exception of Apple, Procter & Gamble, Bank of America and American Express, CMOs view most companies as stagnant and lacking innovation in their marketing efforts, Epsilon said.

Agencies Rarely Exceed Expectations

CMOs surveyed say that more than one third of work in their department is outsourced to contracted agencies, but more often than not, the agencies of record performed only adequately, or even below standards.

Asked to evaluate the extent to which their agency of record exceeds their organization’s expectations in a variety of categories, the marketing executives gave the lowest marks to price (9%) and return on investment (12%). They gave higher scores for communication (27%), knowledge of their business (24%) and client service (23%).

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When the bar was lowered slightly to “meets expectations,” the scores increased significantly to price (71%), ROI (67%), communication (60%), knowledge of my business (62%) and client service (64%).

Strategy and Planning Least Likely To Be Outsourced

The survey asked CMOs to identify the marketing effort they would never outsource. Approximately 34% of respondents named strategy and planning services, which received the highest score. Other top scorers:

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About the survey: Epsilon’s CMO Survey was conducted in two waves in? the fall of 2008 among 180 senior marketing executives. Of the respondents, 100% said they are very or somewhat involved in determining company marketing initiatives. Additional in-depth information about CMO characteristics, preferences and viewpoints is available in a special report from Epsilon that profiles the American CMO.

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