Media Agencies in The Age of Automation – Will Your Role Survive?

A study conducted by the CSIRO examining the future for jobs and markets in Australia over the next 20 years predicts that up to 40% of current jobs will not exist by 2035. Carat Strategy Director, Andrew Hardeman, explores how media will stack up.Andrew Hardeman - Carat

The media industry has, and continues to be, in a period of rapidly-fuelled technological advancement and automation.

Based on a 2015 study, strategic consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group (AUNZ) has positioned Australia as leading the world in the programmatic space, with no signs of slowing.

According to a state of the industry report issued by AdRoll in February this year, 92% of marketers in Australia and New Zealand intend to increase their programmatic spend in 2016.

Great news for advertisers but what of those people whose roles look set to be superseded by automation?

An increase in programmatic buying will undoubtedly result in a number of traditional media buying and planning roles – not to mention publisher sales roles, becoming redundant.

After all, even the best among us cannot match the speed and efficiency of automation.

That said, don’t anyone start speed-dialling recruiters and packing up your desk just yet. As the saying goes (sort of) – when programmatic closes one door, lo and behold it opens another.

Let’s look at how this could potentially all play out, starting with the obvious one:

Mandatory digital literacy

In the (very near) future, everyone is digital and there is no exclusively ‘offline’ team. As an example, Carat aims to be 100% digital by 2020, including 40% programmatic. It’s not enough to be ‘offline only’ anymore. Agencies and individuals need to take responsibility for up-skilling to ensure digital is second nature for all those who wish to still be working in the media industry in years to come.

New opportunities in ‘Data Digestion’

The increased focus on data analytics that underpin programmatic buying will actually pave the way for new opportunities in the media industry.

The CSIRO report identified “bigger big data analysts” as one of the six jobs of the future. As an industry, this could manifest with a larger employment of ‘data scientists’ and people with mathematic and modelling backgrounds.

Current media strategists will need to better equip themselves with the skills to analyse and dissect data in order to inform more actionable consumer insights in a more agile way.

The rise of the ‘customer experience expert’

All the data in the world is of no value unless it’s used to better understand what emotionally connects and resonates with an audience; knowing the how and why to reach an audience, not just the where and when.

The CSIRO report stated one of the six jobs of the future would be the growth of ‘customer experience experts’.

It has suggested “the ranks of the CEO and COO may soon be complemented by the CXO and the CCO; namely the chief experience officer and the chief customer officer”.

Put simply, as programmatic buying becomes commoditised across the industry, all media agencies will have the scale and skill to reach a client’s consumer.

The differentiator will be those who know what to do once they’ve found them.

Agencies with specialist talent such as ‘customer experience officers’ – dedicated to understanding what it is consumers most want and need – will be better positioned than those without.

Unsurprisingly, we should expect an influx of consumer behaviour specialists such as psychologists and sociologists within these roles.

Business strategy, not just media strategy

As organisations begin to fully embrace a customer-centric approach, media agencies will find themselves with a more senior seat at a client’s table. This will come off the back of organisations quantifying the impact of customer experience on the bottom line.

In 20 years, it is plausible that media agencies will be spoken in the same sentence as management and advisory consultancies such as BCG, McKinsey, Deloitte and KPMG. This point is highlighted by the relatively recent trend of consultancies acquiring traditional advertising, media and research agencies.

Essentially, don’t panic.

While automation will definitely challenge rigid traditionalists, as with any industry undergoing evolution, those willing to embrace a changing landscape and grow their skills-set will be rewarded and remain always in-demand.



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