Opinion

Don’t panic, you’re not going to lose your marketing job to a robot

Making that all-important human connection is a key part of every advertiser's role. As long as marketers can keep up with changing technology, there's no chance a robo marketer is going to nab your job anytime soon, writes Michael Savanis.

AI is here. Robots or some form of automation is already affecting the livelihoods of professions such as physicians, cashiers and truck drivers. Just this year, a Japanese insurance company replaced 34 of its employees with AI system . And it’s not slowing down. In fact, Gartner estimates that 45% of the fastest-growing companies in the world will ‘employ’ more smart machines and virtual assistants than people by 2018.

The future is now, and it’s no longer a theoretical exercise to wonder if you will quite literally lose your job to a robot. And of course marketers are no exception to this.

Robots have ruled for years in many sectors of industry

But the reality is that the timing of AI couldn’t be better for us. Let’s face it: the demands of modern marketing are fast exceeding human cognitive capacity, and marketers already need to use extensive technology stacks to leverage extraordinary amounts of data in order to guide the choices that drive billions of dollars in consumer spending.

Supporting this is a recent CMO survey by Gartner, which indicates that marketing takes over IT in terms of tech spending this year. As these demands continue to grow and more marketers implement new automation and technology solutions, it seems logical to fear job loss.

So, do marketers need to worry about being replaced by a robot? And when? If recent research from Forrester tells us that AI is to replace 6% of all jobs by 2021, what, exactly, is our ‘automation risk level’?

Naturally, being humans, we fear change. But let’s think back to the industrial revolution for a minute. People were terrified that jobs would be lost to machinery and the rise of the factory system. But contrary to the popular belief at the time, the factories actually created new jobs.

Savanis: Marketers will have to become more human

Fast forward and let’s take a look at the arrival of everyday automation, like self-checkout, ATMs and automated baggage check-in at the airport. When these automated machines entered supermarkets, banks, and airports, jobs were not lost as we expected. They simply evolved, and new types of jobs were created.

And the good news is that if marketers continue to adapt their skill set, their risk level of being replaced by a robot is actually quite low. While a recent Oxford research study predicated up to 47% of US jobs will be automated in the next decade, marketers appear relatively safe scoring only a 1.4% chance of automation.

It’s important to remember that there is one thing, no matter how advanced robots are, that cannot be replaced: human connection. Conveniently for marketers, this is what their job is centred around.

So stop worrying about AI taking your job. Essentially, if AI does anything, it will provide remarkable value in freeing up your time by using automated programs to take on the more tedious activities. You’ll be freed up to sharpen your craft, learn from your consumers and apply your knowledge and experience in new and improved ways.

In fact, according to The Accenture Report that looked at 12 countries, AI could increase productivity by up to 40% by 2035. And when every business strives for increased efficiency, what’s holding them back from adopting the new technology?

The answer is the fear of both the high cost and the assumption of the difficulty of integrating AI into their processes. Yes, AI will come at a cost that may not be ideal to everyone right away, but the benefits of enhanced work and efficiency will pay off big in the long run. A new way of marketing has evolved, and by year 2025, the artificial intelligence market will surpass $100 billion, according to Constellation Research. This means that whether you like it or not, AI will become very present in the next eight years.

And of course, the integration of AI may come as a challenge at first, just like anything else new and unfamiliar. But the key to a smooth transition is the willingness to learn and adapt to new ways of doing things.

As a marketer, you will need to become a ‘technologist’ – an expert in automated technology – while also becoming more human – connecting and empathising with your consumers at each point of engagement. And while no computer can replace human intuition or compassion, the opportunity to find synergies between the skill sets of intelligent programs versus marketers is endless.

Marketing might be at a cross roads, but this is good news because it doesn’t have to be a “winner takes all” scenario. If marketers choose to adopt AI and use it to their full advantage, there is the potential for tremendous growth.

Let AI handle the mundane tasks while instead focussing on your customer relationships, and you’ll never be replaced.

Michael Savanis is vice president and managing director at ON24

In August, together with the IAA, Mumbrella is hosting a breakfast and panel discussion ‘Artificial Intelligence Just Got Real’ which will reveal whether the AI transformation will leave a trail of destruction or open up a world of opportunity. For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here

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