Software Is Eating Marketing -- And Your Job

by , Jan 27, 2014, 10:22 AM
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On Aug. 20, 2011, Marc Andreesen published a now-famous article in the Wall Street Journal under the headline  “Why Software Is Eating The World.” It was a bold, inspired and scary statement: After software and robots have eaten the manufacturing industry, the same will now happen to the rest of the economy.

On March 27, 2013, Christopher Mimms followed this idea with an article on Quartz titled “How The Internet Is Making Us Poor,” in which he reviewed the economic and societal consequences of software eating the world. This article does not paint a happy future for white-collar workers.

Many start-ups are founded on a belief that an existing product, utility or service is cumbersome, outdated or run by lazy companies refusing to innovate. So move over, we can do it better and cheaper with this algorithm.

In marketing we have sort of considered ourselves part of the start-up world, happily playing along while killing the print industry, radio, journalism -- and, a little more reluctantly, television. We are hobnobbing, slightly star-struck, with Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer or Eric Schmidt, and pushing advertisers into any and all digital media.

But don’t be fooled: Your job security is as much at risk as if you were, say, operating yellow cabs, manufacturing thermostats or selling razors. The Internet is eating marketing and advertising jobs. You’re a target.

I base this on some recent news as well as what I am learning from the work I am doing with a few companies who are specifically in the business of automating parts of the marketing and advertising ecoystem.

Matt Seiler, CEO of IPG Mediabrands, last year announced that his company was to automate 50% of all media buys (not just digital!) within the next three years. The company is one year in and on track to fulfill its goal over the remaining two years. I am betting that the recent merger of WPP’s Xaxis and 24/7 was completed with the same idea in mind.

If the U.S. stock market is any indication of potential implications, consider that in 2004, just over 25% of all Wall Street trades were automated, and that by 2012 this number had risen to about 65%. What would it mean for the jobs of media buyers and sellers if 50%+ of all media buys were traded real-time through software?

Another company has developed a fully automated real-time auditing system of all elements of a company’s digital output. The software works across all platforms (Web, mobile, social, search, etc.) and allows marketers to assess very quickly if their digital presence and/or activation is technically effective, searchable, findable, shareable, readable, etc. And it generates the same report for your nearest competitors or industry leaders so you can develop a strategy on how and where to improve. Gone are the days when you had your agency (or an intern) compile manual reports -- which were always incomplete, after the fact and labor-intensive.

If you are a marketer looking for an advertising agency, there is an algorithm that will allow you to play “match.com” and find potential suitable creative partners. If you need brand photography, you can now crowd-source this function through a new service that just got launched and funded. Then there’s a VC placing big bets on start-ups that will replace and improve many marketing tasks.

So software is eating the world, yours included. The only questions are “How fast?” and "Now what?"

4 comments on "Software Is Eating Marketing -- And Your Job".

  1. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging
    commented on: January 27, 2014 at 11:34 a.m.
    I remember the predictions of how we would all own flying cars and work 10 hour weeks. Didn't happen - other work came along to replace the jobs that became unnecessary as technology advanced. Same will happen here, for example Social Marketing is a very labor-intensive way to do marketing.
  2. Susan Breidenbach from Broadbrook Associates
    commented on: January 27, 2014 at 5:46 p.m.
    Is this just information-age Luddite sentiment? In the past, automation has always created more jobs than it eliminates. Some people do see their jobs eliminated, and must adapt, learn new skills, etc., of course, but on net there are increased opportunities out there. What is different about the Internet and social media disruption is its disintermediation effect. That is new. It eliminates intermediaries by attaching everyone to everyone at very little cost, which empowers individuals. But it also proportionately puts more responsibility on individuals, at a time when people have laid down responsibility in favor of entitlements. Also, the speed at which we have to adapt has increased. We have to constantly adapt. There are no comfortable ruts to sink into. I suspect that the current automation, like all its predecessors, is creating more opportunity than it eliminates. The question is whether humankind in our current societal and philosophical state can seize them. Thank you for this very thought-provoking article.
  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: January 27, 2014 at 6:43 p.m.
    It's eating jobs in all industries. In the past automation did create more jobs but not anymore. The high school graduate with the skills of a 7th grader cannot compete with the "replacement" jobs and the manual labor economy is going for $.28/hr in other countries. Give it another 10 years and Maarten's article will look like a prophecy ignored just as others have.
  4. Jeff Einstein from The Brothers Einstein
    commented on: February 11, 2014 at 8:15 a.m.
    Susan, Maarten's observations are far more than mere Luddite sentiment refashioned for the 21st century. Digital automation is in fact destroying more jobs than it currently creates, at least in this country, and that trend will continue unabated for the foreseeable future. True, all new technologies disrupt and disintermediate. All new technologies spawn winners and losers. The natural bias of digital technology is the accrual and consolidation of institutional power. Right now, the winners are large, increasingly opaque institutions (private and public) already far too big to fail, while the losers are "empowered" consumers: disintermediated, disenfranchised and gripped by a massive addiction to all things media and all things digital that -- like any other addiction to any other narcotic -- steals our time and money and freedom and sets itself up as moderator over all our most important internal and external debates. And like any other addiction to any other narcotic, our addiction to all things media and all things digital eventually turns against us as a net destroyer of opportunity, jobs, family and community.

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