Programmatic and automation will never take over the marketing industry 100% because a machine can never be inspired, and innovation is driven through inspiration.
Inspiration is driven through the marriage of emotion and hypothesis—and to date, computers are not capable of either one (at least not in the real world--they certainly do in the movies). That’s why the age-old debate over “art vs. science” can never be won in advertising or marketing. Both sides are necessary for success.
Computers and machine learning are great at optimization. Iterative change driven through analytics is why so much of the business is driving toward programmatic. If an automated system can gradually and consistently improve your efforts, why wouldn’t you enable that to happen?
Every marketing effort can be optimized, but for a revolutionary change, you need to tap into the emotions of your audience and drive incremental improvement. That emotional quality is what a machine cannot replicate—and what will keep every one of you in a job for many years to come.
The challenge facing your marketing org is, how do you hire the people that understand both sides? How do you find people with a commercial mindset applied to analytics, who are not afraid to be inspired by an idea? This is the make-up of a successful CMO in today’s world.
Today’s marketing leaders can satisfy all three elements: analytics, creativity, and a commercial mindset. If you are trying to establish a path for your career, you need to be bolstering your skills in all three. How do you achieve that?
One place to start is still the agency environment. Agencies have training programs that enable you to learn all three functions if you know where to look, and if you work at the right agency. An account or client services role is a great place to be, but I recommend you start in media first and get that valuable understanding of targeting and analytics. That’s the path I took, and it helped me a lot.
If you don’t like the agency route, I recommend a large brand that’s focused on direct selling rather than simply branding and awareness. You need to find brands deep into analytics to track direct sales, and many online brands are a great place to go for that background. These folks can tag every interaction and establish their own attribution models to measure success.
When you select a company to work for, find out about their tolerance for job trading every couple of years, because you want to get a few different types of experience in those valuable early stages of your career.
The last piece of advice I can give you for your career: Take some responsibility. I can 100% guarantee you that nobody else out there is as concerned with your career path as you are, so don’t wait around for someone else to help guide you down the path. Take the initiative, do the reading, engage with the leaders in your industry. Do your homework and realize your career is something that doesn’t start at 9 a.m., and certainly doesn’t end at 5 p.m. It’s a 24/7 effort, and you are responsible for determining what balance will work for you.
Passion is an emotion that can never be overlooked. Passion can create inspiration, and that is fundamentally what drives innovation. Make sure you are putting yourself in a position to be inspired!