How to Future-Proof a Career in Marketing When the Old Rules No Longer Apply

New thinking and new channels have changed how ads are made, and who’s making them

Adweek spoke with a group of industry professionals for their take on the current challenges and how talent is being redefined.

Thanks to digital transformation, there are myriad ways to reach consumers, and these new channels have revolutionized not just how advertising is conceived, executed and distributed, but who makes it. Then add to the mix shrinking ad budgets, shifting agency models and the rise of big data and analytics. Together, they are shaking up the established power players behind the ad-making game. To wit, in March, J. Walter Thompson eliminated the role of chief creative officer, saying it was “reimagining the future of the agency.”

So, how best to future-proof a career in advertising?

“You have to ask lots of questions,” says Tim Leake, the chief marketing officer and svp at RPA. “You have to wonder how does this work. Figure out what blockchain is and what it means for your business. What is VR and how do people use it? You have to be insatiably curious about what works and why. It’s all about testing and iterating. You have to set up a hypothesis, and that’s across the board whether you’re an account manager, a creative or you work in PR.”

At the same time, brands are bringing advertising in-house. Or, they are turning to the ad-consulting arms of global accounting and auditing firms like PwC, Deloitte and IBM, while Vice, The New York Times and other publishing outfits establish their own creative studios. And, all the while, individuals are sharing, tweeting, liking and forwarding content, becoming themselves ersatz ad makers and storytellers.

Today, the old rules no longer apply, and the new ones are being constantly rewritten, as the creative establishment engages in a turf war with data experts and engineers.

What makes for success in this evolving landscape? What is essential to have in advertising no matter the era? What does a fractured industry mean for agencies? What new challenges does it pose? What, if anything, remains the same as new platforms come and go at seemingly record speed?

As agency execs and marketers adjust to this unceasing disruption, Adweek spoke with a group of industry professionals to share their take on the current challenges, how talent is being redefined and what agencies and brands are looking for in this brave, new world.

Illustration: Dianna McDougall

Experimentation is key

“Laundry in music festivals is WTF, but mobile phones are a dime a dozen,” explains Peggy Ang, LG’s head of mobile communications marketing. She was talking about LaundROO, the company’s unlikely lounge at the four-day Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee earlier this year where revelers could get their dirty clothes washed.

As the No. 3 player in the mobile space, Ang says, the company must be wildly creative and unpredictable about reaching new, younger audiences. “I have to stay relevant to people who are all about digital, and Bonnaroo was that new endeavor,” she says.

LG also works with a VR character to get its message out, Ang says, explaining, “I need something that nobody has owned. You have to dip in the waters, you have to try. In six months, if it doesn’t, what I can be proud of is we tested something, we tried something nobody has done.”

In other words, the new world order hinges largely on experimentation.

“The nature of the creative process has changed,” says Leake. By way of explanation, he references bowling. Before the digital age, “we put all our care into this big, giant ball and to knock over as many pins as possible. Now, life is much more like pinball. The people are the ball and we don’t know where it’s going to, but we have to set up lots of targets. No journey is going to be exactly the same.”

This story first appeared in the August 6, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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