Marketing 101 was all about finding a need and filling it. How easy it used to be to do that. Think about how many of our greatest products, and sometimes brands, have done so and thrived. From Ivory to Coke to Apple to Walmart and so many in between.

As those companies began to “market”, they established marketing teams to do the work. And traditionally as you may know, these teams were comprised of individuals with distinct competencies. Brand managers and.or marketing managers being the most general of the group, however, there have always been certain specialties such as advertising, promotion, events, direct marketing, pr, and most recently online or interactive.

I was proud when I became an Interactive Marketing Manager in 1996. To work for a world class organization and be on the forefront of the next great wave of marketing and communications strategy was too cool for school. But even then I wondered what the future would bring. Would I run an interactive team? Department? Would I ever run a marketing department?

Hm. But how could a specialist be enough of a generalist to run such a team? Forgetting overall strategy for a moment, just how could this happen?

Indeed, I’ve been fortunate to have worked in traditional marketing for many years before interactive, so I’ve been able to bridge that gap. Still, the questions I raise above concern me. Not just because it is a long road to hoe for many, but because it is a model whose time, I think, has come.

My view of the world is that there are always going to be specialty areas that demand specialization. However, interactive is NOT one of those.

In its 2009 Annual, Advertising Age reported that of all media that it tracks – from yellow pages to broadcast TV – that only Cable and Internet would see ad spending increases. Indeed, if Internet grows 5% while magazine, yellow pages, and radio (the 3 media who currently enjoy higher spend that are just above Internet in terms of total spend) decrease, Internet spend will SURPASS those 3 mediums. And it won’t take much longer to overcome cable.

Assuming this holds true, it becomes fairly obvious that something has got to give in terms of knowledge. Either more specialists need to be trained and hired, or, “traditional” marketers need to understand interactive. I for one vote for the latter, that it is time for the marketing generalist to know as much about the principles of interactive marketing as well as they do traditional marketing principles.

This is not meant to imply that we still don’t need specialists, this space changes DAILY. But I do suggest that marketers in the 21st century (ha, as a child of the 60’s I love writing that) need to be grounded in interactive and that hiring managers should expect that the marketing manager they hire knows as much about interactive as they do the 4 Ps.

Simply put, I believe that interactive is now table stakes for the marketeer. What do you think?