There’s advertising as you know it. Then there’s this…

The world of advertising is changing for a number of reasons. But at the core is the proliferation of media types thanks to the explosion of digital, the emergence of platforms that attract and hold massive audiences, and digital media management and measurement tools.

The question is, are you equipped to make a compelling contribution against this rapidly evolving marketing landscape?

What follows are some thoughts about these developments, and the implications for much needed skill-sets within our industry.

These changes present opportunities for the forward thinking, technically enabled and conversion oriented, but signals the death knell for those clinging to fantasies of Mad Men-esque, old school advertising. The days of slowly churning out a large piece of communication that is unleashed upon the world and left to do its magic are fading. The fast-paced digital evolution has inserted multiple touch points along the consumer decision journey, and demands that advertisers are cautiously experimental, open to early adoption and always optimizing their efforts.

Advertising agencies need to become synonymous with ‘digital’ or the work will gradually become less effective. This has implications for what people do in an agency, and importantly how they do it too. The new model demands rapid, largely internal production, and loops of implementation and optimisation as one strives to unlock the best possible results. The work needs to integrate with people’s lives and these lives revolve around mobile-enabled Internet.

The new traditional agency has to have a breadth and depth of strategic understanding spanning all the digital tactics and possibilities in order to leverage these for competitive advantage. And creative production now needs to be native to various environments to play a tangible role in converting users to customers.

David Moffatt Group Managing Director advertising as you know itStorytelling and creativity remain as relevant as ever. But in addition to the right message wrapped in original creative thinking and compelling design is the importance of contextually relevant communications and propositions. Knowing your audience will depend on tracking, crunching and understanding immense amounts of consumer behavioural data. Programmatic tools are increasingly tracking and intersecting audience behaviour. So, you need to grasp the emerging media tactics available to you.

The broader competitive landscape has also changed. The fact that as businesses digitize, their systems and service delivery functions will be brought closer together than ever before, including infrastructure, connected machines, data, operations, processes, payments, business models, and customer experiences.

Management consultancies are seeking to intersect the client/agency relationship, and are trying their hand at creative problem solving. They bring critical thinking and solution modeling to the table. This impacts how far upstream an agency’s strategic offering needs to swim, which sharpens the caliber of strategist or business analyst they will be seeking to hire.

Specialist agencies will also proliferate carving niches of deep understanding within digital media, data management, eCRM and other silos in the new marketing mix. So, expect to share your lunch.

There are a lot of moving parts here, and you too will need to get moving to continue being relevant and in a position to make a valuable contribution.

In terms of jobs, automation and new smart platforms are creating a fair amount of anxiety as they gradually make certain jobs redundant. According to McKinsey, 60 percent of all occupations have at least 30 percent of activities that are technically automatable, based on currently demonstrated technologies. This means that most occupations will change, and more people will have to work with technology.

Apart from critical thinking, agencies are evolving to do more production internally, which directly impacts their operations and specifically how projects are managed. So there are new opportunities for switched on project managers. Of course, the traditional agency functions need to evolve too. So to the next generation of ad talent entering the game, this is where I see the essential evolution in your capabilities to entrench your hireability.

Firstly, a generalization for those starting out with ants in their pants. Slow down, and absorb what is on offer around you. I know you’re hungry for success, but wisdom takes experience, and experience takes time. Rushing from job to job for increases that you’d get in one environment anyway, once you’ve proven yourself, robs you of critical deep learning opportunities.

Agnostic Strategy
Client Leadership
User Oriented Design
Full Stack Developers
Project Management

Agnostic Strategy. It’s no longer simply about messaging constructs and where to place media. You need to solve business problems! And yes, this will involve process design, and solution modeling as much as it might demand storytelling. Narrative-based strategists that simply hand an ‘insight’ over to the creative team is not enough anymore. You need a deep Internet understanding, in addition to a fair grasp of consumer technology, as your solve may lie in native functionality on a device or the unexpected merging of seemingly incompatible technologies. You need to know how to incorporate data analysis into your situational understanding and evaluating the efficacy of your work.

Client Leadership means having a comprehensive understanding of both business and the new advertising landscape, which includes strategy, creative production, media, social and performance analytics. Yes, you should be certified in analytics! It’s free, so start today. You are competing with business management consultancies, and can no longer ‘take briefs’ and create ‘job bags.’ Expect your degree or diploma in Advertising to compete with Business Science graduates that have specialized in business analysis, finance and management. Strategic branding implications and marketing is a decent base, but it’s time to stretch your applied thinking beyond the consumer promotion.

User Oriented Design. You’re a designer, possibly even a great one, but do you design experiences that facilitate a specific journey to achieve some goal? Almost everything online is designed to stimulate an action or resolve a problem. What is the context of your design? How does it help resolve the bigger picture? In addition to pixel perfection, creatives in this business need to grasp UX principles, and how they apply to mobile, social and web.

Full stack developers. There is a major shortage of all developers in this industry. There is a really serious shortage of very good developers. Many are drawn away by the prospect of working on iterative platform development as opposed to deadline driven development for consumer promotions. Some are paid in dollars for overseas clients and set their own working hours. So agencies themselves have to consider flexible working arrangements to compete. Nevertheless, my point is that developers are in great demand. If you’re competent and have the chops to build compelling front end experiences in addition to responsive sites, mobile dev, integrate content management systems and data-mining, then know your worth! But be reliable, and see your projects through, bearing in mind that someone else is likely to have to pick up on your code at some point. If you’re wondering what languages to back, I’d say JavaScript has emerged as the front runner. Also consider the mobile environment’s native languages such as Objective C or Java. However, in my experience it’s the mobile web that most communications industry development is focused on, which can tap into native functionality using common web development languages. So again, you will be served by JavaScript and HTML5.

Project Management. There is a massive gap for competent, experienced, process driven project managers that can successfully maintain visibility on a projects status, and profitability. PMs that grasp the technical implications of the projects that they are supporting are even rarer. You are GOLD if you can do this at scale. There are principles, tools and methodologies that underpin reliable project management. Don’t think that just because you write lists in your day-to-day life that you have all that’s required here! Agencies will increasingly become dependent on solid project managers. If you’re at the level you will be highly employable. But don’t overlook having the right attitude and personality traits, as this is a highly collaborative role. So, if you generally rub people up the wrong way, stick to accounting.

If you develop these capabilities, and possess a change-agent styled attitude, then you will add immense value to the new paradigm of advertising agencies.

The survivor agencies are destined to evolve into data led, creative business consultancies that use storytelling in native environments to achieve measurable results. Clients need to understand that they essentially have to fund this evolution. Don’t expect procurement to acknowledge this any time soon. A natural tension between agency fees, service evolution and clients will prevail. However, clients that have a true partnership relationship with their agency won’t find this a scary proposition.

So, the times they are a changin’. But the real question is, “are you?”