Originally published on Forbes by Stephanie Nadi Olson, January 15, 2020
If the last decade of marketing has proven anything, it’s that the future moves fast, and the marketing landscape has been through a sprint of shifting from traditional tactics to marketing at the speed of scrolling our social feeds. We’ve seen both brands and agencies adapt to challenges like emerging technologies, content marketing, programmatic media buying and the era of influencers.
As we look ahead to 2020 and the decade to come, the advertising and marketing industries are primed for seismic shifts, including pressing operational topics such as solving diversity, responding to social justice issues, adapting to remote work and embracing the rise of freelance. The connecting thread linking these issues together is humans — specifically the ways in which brands and agency leadership innovate with a focus on marketing talent.
So, as the founder of a talent strategy firm, here are my four people-based predictions for the future of modern marketing in 2020:
1. A new generation of leaders with normalize flexible and remote work.
There’s no slowing down our ever-connected lives, and that includes the way we work. Thanks to the ease of tools like Zoom, Slack, Asana and the multitude of tech built for distributed teams, the need for employees to fit their lives into their work schedule will likely diminish.
We will see a rise in a new generation of leaders — an estimated 58% of the workforce will be composed of millennials and Gen Z in the coming decade. I believe these digital-first generations won’t hang onto old structures and will normalize flexibility as a standard, not just a perk. This trend can even soothe burnout — flexibility inevitably leads to more balanced lives, which can lead to more satisfied talent, which ultimately leads to better work.
2. In-house agencies will use talent strategies to further innovate.
This past decade saw big brands seeking cost savings by folding agency capabilities in-house. But strikingly, according to an ANA study of in-house agency marketers, 44% called out attracting top-tier talent as their main concern.
Much like content studios, in-house agencies can operate efficiently with a full-time senior-level staff of around 20% to 30% while relying on a bench of freelance staffers to accommodate project-based needs for the remaining staff. While it may seem daunting to take on a 70% to 80% freelance staff, I recommend the executive team map out resource needs per quarter to inform job descriptions needed to get each project done so that the search for a contingent staff feels less daunting.
Attracting top freelance talent will, of course, be about the rates, but also about how the freelance staff is welcomed, integrated and treated on the team. In my experience, freelance creative consultants are small business owners and professionals in their own right. They chose this path and are seeking opportunities that not only invigorate their creative chops, but that also allow them to work with diverse teams on a rotating basis. Another benefit in-house agencies can gain through leveraging on-demand talent is access to talent beyond their city and state.
Remote creative teams are on the rise, and working with remote editors, art directors and copywriters gives agencies more options to find the perfect people to get the job done. Pro tip: Start building your NDAs for these hires!
3. Staying competitive means keeping talent top of mind.
CMOs in the past decade have leveraged agencies, consultancies and in-house teams to manage marketing functions. In 2020, add on-demand talent to that list of options. A recent EY Workforce Study claims that “40% of large U.S. employers plan to use more gig workers by 2020. About a quarter expect more than 30% of their staff to be gig workers by then.”
Traditional staffing issues like talent shortages, paid leaves and business transitions will be more agile with on-demand talent solutions that cut costs, driving growth. With that in mind, innovative C-suite executives should keep the pipeline full for future opportunities by making sure talent-vetting is a part of their planning process. Many organizations have introduced chief people officers to manage the core full-time organization, but I believe the new decade will see this position take on the responsibility of managing on-demand talent and remote workers, ensuring each new on-demand hire is the right fit for the company and project.
4. The future of advertising agencies is independent contractors.
Automation has certainly impacted the ways in which data is used for ads, as well as the creation of AI influencers. But with shifting budgets and a need for agility, combined with the parallel rise of agency talent going independent, a new era of advertising is upon us: people as the backbone of agency work.
Given that nearly 60 million Americans are in the freelance economy closing out the past decade, the trend is not expected to slow down anytime soon. This decade will see people as the new frontier, with marketing teams seeking experts to solve business challenges we’ve seen sprout in this decade, such as diversity blind spots.
Companies that utilize flexible talent strategies to engage with and benefit from the enormous and growing amount of talent working independently will certainly be the leaders of forming processes that enable on-demand workers to seamlessly flow in and out of the organization. The “future of work” may be how we talk about these topics colloquially, but the future is now, and organizations willing to take risks with open minds will quite literally shape the future.