by Carl MacInnes and Peter Steidl

Advertising and marketing have evolved, but are agencies and marketing teams evolving with it?

NESTA, the UK based global innovation foundation, is one of several parties that looked at the creative professions and came up with a quite positive outlook – at least until 2030. But as is typical for the advertising industry their focus is internal in nature: which elements of the jobs we do today could be taken over by technologies?

This is obviously only one consideration. The other, arguably more important, question is: how will technologies change the marketfor advertising services? And when you ask that question, the future starts to look rather grim

Let’s look briefly at both internal and external developments.

With respect to internal developments it can be useful to listen to parties that have no vested interest in a particular industry sector and can therefore be expected to be relatively unbiased. A great analysis has been delivered by Susskind & Susskind, who studied eight professions – health, education, divinity, law, journalism, management consulting, tax & audit and architecture – over a ten year period. Their conclusion: ‘We expect an ‘incremental transformation’ in the way that we produce and distribute expertise in society. This will lead eventually to a dismantling of the traditional professions.’ (Susskind Richard & Daniel Susskind, The Future of the Professions, Oxford University Press, 2017)

They also say that just about everybody they talked to agreed that technologies will replace humans in all professions – except theirs! This is something we have also encountered: most advertising execs we talk to agree that there will be a major impact, but it won’t affect advertising!

While this is a natural reaction it is not helpful. AI in particular has advantages over humans when it comes to communications and creative strategies, and it is even catching up with respect to execution.

Looking externally at the market environment and how it is likely to change, we find that today’s advertising services will become a niche endeavour, while different creative challenges will become mainstream. These externally-imposed changes will ensure that the advertising agency of the future will be a very different beast than it is today.

We don’t have space here for a considered overview on the trends and developments likely to take place, but note that neuroscience helps us to understand why we believe our jobs are safe, why we don’t prepare by transforming our agencies to compete in the future world and why we don’t guide clients to just survive the coming transformation but to capitalize on it.

But, more importantly, it also help us to understand how consumers will react to the technology revolution that will change their life and how this will in turn change the market for advertising services and will render much of what we do today irrelevant.

In some ways that’s not surprising: we still have the same brains we always had, that work in the same way, and fundamentally this is what makes our responses to technological change irrational but quite predictable.

The overriding point is this: we have to get a better understanding of the future to prepare for it. And that future is not determined within advertising agencies – it is determined by the evolving market for creative services which will be impacted in unprecedented ways by technological change. We need to develop strategies aligned with the coming disruption and we need to work on becoming more resilient so we can adapt as change will become the order of the day. Nobody will be safe. You can’t stand still when the world around you is changing.

Carl MacInnes heads Fonterra’s Behavioural Hub; Dr Peter Steidl is the Founder of Neurothinking; they will present their thoughts on ‘How to find success in an unpredictable future. A neuroscience perspective.’ at a Legends & Leaders Session in Melbourne on March 7th. Register here: Legends & Leaders Neurothinking

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