Why you should be nervous if you work in advertising

Salvador Suárez

7 September 2018

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A long time ago, I read an HBR article (“Meet Your New Employee”, June 2015) that predicted the human resources department would soon be made obsolete thanks to new technologies. Now, experts estimate that, within the next two decades, roughly 60% of unskilled professionals will be replaced by new, technology based solutions.

Personally, I was a bit relieved. Especially considering the future of my nieces who will likely pursue a more technical career. But my relief was only temporary. The projects we manage at Good Rebels on a day to day basis only make me worry more for the future of marketing and communications professionals. So many projects rely on gathering, managing and reporting on data. They require a deep understanding of technology and necessitate a new kind of professional within the communications and marketing department.

It seems specialised positions in easy to automate areas are also at risk; automation in the world of advertising, media buying and communications is, in general, already a reality. Marketing teams are searching for new talent with more relevant skills – the data scientist is in high demand.

The big question

It’s a process that began way back in the late 1990s with the arrival of the internet and increased access to technology, and it’s a subject Fernando Polo discussed more in depth in his Rebel Thinking article on The Painful Decline of the Advertising Industry, but the big questions we need to ask ourselves is how long exactly will it take for traditional advertising departments to be replaced by specialised teams well versed in data and technology?

The relearning process

We work in an environment where technology is evolving at an exponential rate and we need to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to us. As my colleague Pedro explained in his last article, artificial intelligence and voice technology have changed everything. The consumer now has access to a myriad of products and services whether they’re connected or not.

This has forced us to adapt the way in which we promote our products and services; we’ve had to go with more unconventional methods, find alternatives, and assess a different set of results (see Growth Hacking). For example, we’ve had to:

  • Utilise existing areas of strength (platforms, data, etc.)
  • Run tests with microbudgets, based on our knowledge of consumer behaviour
  • Develop micro-experiments
  • Incorporate more data into our strategies
  • Incorporate new learnings

At this point, if you’re responsible for marketing within in your organisation, there are five questions you should be asking yourself:

  • Data gathering: are the main points of contact between my brand and my clients clear to me?
  • Integration of data: am I making connections between the data collected in both physical and digital spaces?
  • Visualisation and access: am I making this information available to those in charge?
  • Insights based on data: is this information being analysed against business results?
  • A/B testing: am I running A/B tests in order to optimise results?

Finally, a sixth, and more strategic question you might want to ask yourself – if data monitoring tools help me to recognise trends and changes in consumer habits, could I detect changes in the value chain by analysing ‘Dark Data’ as well?

If you haven’t been asking yourself these questions, then you need to start. Begin by figuring out what resources are already available to you or, alternatively, take advice from people with more experience in your sector. Hopefully, they’ll be more familiar with the process of incorporating different methodologies and experiences in the management and integration of technology platforms.

Welcome to the working world, Math Men

As Sunil Gupta demonstrated in his guide to Driving Digital Strategy, your two most valuable assets are your data management team and your customer database. We need more technical professionals to help us advance and enhance these two assets. In the end, it’s a Data Driven world, and we’re all just living in it.

Access to information and technology is an almost global reality. To develop a 21st century approach to communications, all we need are the right tools. It’s time to say goodbye to Mad Men, and hello to Math Men.