If you work in PPC, you have two choices: learn how to automate or develop strategic skills

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Automation is going to replace the majority of the work humans currently do in PPC. There will still be plenty of jobs (if not more than there currently are), but the tasks within those jobs will be different. As automation becomes more sophisticated, affordable and adopted, the human element of PPC work will focus primarily on developing and managing automation technology, or providing strategy.

So if you aren’t good at either of these, start getting good now.

Automation’s impact on work (general)

Will automation have a positive or negative impact on the job market? There is no certainty about this; there are simply too many factors to make a strong prediction. History tells us it will be positive, but economists tell us this next wave of automation might be different. We’ll see.

What we can be certain about is that automation will increasingly be used to substitute human labour. Automation has already cut the UK agricultural workforce to just 1% (from more than 90% a couple of centuries ago) and soon it will have the same impact on jobs that involve routine cognitive tasks - which are many.

The McKinsey Report (2016) breaks this down a little further, predicting the technical feasibility of types of labour being automated in the near future.

Once again, this isn’t jobs - it’s just types of labour. So long as you are developing the skills that will be in demand, you ought to have job security.

To take an example from the recent (ish) past, the ATM led to the replacement of human bank tellers with machines. Greater productivity enabled banks to open more branches, which actually increased the number of human jobs. The caveat to this, is that these new jobs required a different type of labour: the interpersonal skills and higher cognitive aspects of ‘relationship banking’. Not every bank teller would necessarily migrate from their previous role into this one - only those that were ready and able to adapt to the new skills demand.

Automation’s impact on PPC

There are no existing academic studies that provide a prediction for this, just my own personal research based on account managers at Brainlabs.

The funny thing is that the majority of the automation that has been introduced has come from the account managers themselves. I say ‘funny’ because, from an outside perspective, it might seem as though our account managers are digging their own graves, manufacturing their own obsolescence. This isn’t the case, however.

One of the key ways to add value as PPC account manager is to find ways of doing things more efficiently, accurately and effectively. Automation is the essential tool for achieving this.

Tech has allowed our account managers to automate 75% of the manual elements of their role, like dealing with search query reports, setting up and monitoring tests, building campaigns and using Bing. They spend their time on more sophisticated tasks like cross-channel strategy, stakeholder reporting, new-market analysis and complex competitor strategies.

Their mission is to increase 75% to 100%. When that day comes, our account managers will not be out of work; in fact, they’ll have greater job security than most people in the labour market, because they will be focused exclusively on the work that no AI will be able to do for a very long time yet.

Dan Gilbert is founder and chief executive officer of Brainlabs

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Daniel Gilbert

Dan Gilbert is chief executive officer of Brainlabs, a paid media agency.

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