What exactly separates people from machines? Two things, actually: creativity and empathy. No matter what gets developed in AI, these are the two elements that can keep the agency services business alive, and keep marketers busy for years to come.
AI is a complement to what you do. It is intended to augment your abilities. AI can create a layer of efficiency that companies are otherwise lacking and free them up to be doing the kind of work with incremental impact.
Agencies have succeeded in the past because they are creative. They come up with solutions to problems that teams knee-deep in the challenges every day may not see.
AI enables marketers not to get sucked down into the weeds for reporting and analysis, but instead optimize testing in campaigns while they’re in-market, freeing up time to tackle new problems in creative ways.
All that being said, empathy is the single most important characteristic of a marketer or agency. Empathy can never be automated. It comes from putting yourself in the shoes of your customers and understanding the emotional impact of the challenges they face. Empathy is not an algorithm.
You can execute focus groups and you can do research to develop insights into your target audience, but empathy enables you to look deeper than the binary output of data. It’s that special insight stemming from the aggregation of data, the understanding of context and the application of emotion to come up with a truly new and unique idea. It can never be automated.
Agencies get paid for more monotonous work than ever before, and now that work can be automated. Margins have been squeezed for all the other more creative work and that’s resulted in lower-cost people being put in positions of creativity, which tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy (less experienced employees tend to do lower quality work). Many CMOs have not been sure how to utilize technology to create efficiency, and instead focused on creativity. It’s the exact opposite of the agency services model, which is why they still work well together.
In the future, agency survival will depend on being able to automate the foundational elements and focus on creativity and empathy, while the role of a marketer requires a balance of both. AI offers an opportunity for the agency model to evolve and succeed. AI offers the chance for marketers to become more balanced and focused on creating scale while understanding their consumer audience.
All of which brings us back to the idea that AI can augment what you do and allow you to become a better, faster, stronger and more productive version of what you were in the past.