Google will kick-start its 12-day digital marketing programme Squared in Hong Kong on 20 October.
Squared, a free digital education aimed at nurturing rising digital talent, was created in London last year was launched in Singapore, New York and Hamburg earlier this year. Four major programmes are organised every year in the UK.
The first Squared programme in Hong Kong will be attended by 25 digital marketers from 25 agencies across advertising, marketing and media buy industries as well as brands, with one from each company. Each marketer was nominated by his or her senior managers at their respective company.
Participating brands include Unilever, Nestle, L’Oreal, Johnson and Johnson, and Sony.
Meanwhile, among the participating agencies are Carat, Mindshare, JWT, iProspect and Ogilvy & Mather.
"The course will not just be about Google - it will be rooted in industry needs," Sarah Tate, head of Squared Hong Kong at Google, said.
Tate and other local industry experts will teach the course, which will cover digital skills, big-picture trends and communication skills for clients and for colleagues to help instill change in the marketers' companies after the course finishes.
Staff will take part in three live projects - a live brand launch, analysis of a live set of data and an online technology start-up pitch.
"The pace of growth in digital marketing is faster than that of digital talent in Hong Kong," Margaret Ho, deputy general manager at Starcom Hong Kong, said.
"Existing digital marketers do not have enough knowledge to back up a proposed campaign or the rationale behind it for the client or to evaluate if a campaign is effective. There is no complete training on this."
Starcom Hong Kong is another agency taking part in the inaugural Squared programme.
Ho said, "We also need something to give Hong Kong talent a boost - otherwise, local digital marketers will be left behind and foreigners will take up those positions in Hong Kong. We are already recruiting digital talent from overseas and if this continues, there will be fewer and fewer opportunities for Hong Kong digital marketers."
While there is an extremely high mobile penetration rate in Hong Kong, genuinely creative mobile campaigns are relatively rare.
"Mobile is a daily touch point for the consumer so everyone wants to jump on this bandwagon. We know the opportunity is there but the insights around mobile marketing are still very scattered. As an industry, we haven't been able to gather together all the pieces of the puzzle and developed a sophisticated understanding," Ho said.
Examples of an incomplete understanding of mobile marketing include knowledge of how to find the right platform and use the right benchmarks for measuring ROI.
Another reason for going for training outside of the agency is to help retain digital talent.
"Digital marketers ask agencies to offer training in digital that is different from the on-the-job training common in the agency world because things move so quickly. Plus, internal training only focuses on internal resources," Ho said.
"Finding talent has been very difficult in the past two years. Fresh graduates working in the industry for just a year may move to another company because they receive a better offer. Meanwhile, we are always looking for experienced people to help us handle local campaigns."
For the course, apart from the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, Google will work with educational organisation Impact International.