Why AB went back to the future with its latest recruitment drive

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We recently decided to create a recruitment video for distribution on social media and opted to go the humorous route, channeling the style of a promotional film from the 1980s (above). The idea was to be a bit different from the other ads out there looking to attract digital talent, to demonstrate what a relevant and rapidly evolving industry we work in and to highlight the benefits of our location in Devon. It was lots of fun to put together and made the team at AB focus on how much technological change we’ve seen in our lives and careers over the past three decades.

The rate of change hasn’t slowed, though; if anything it’s getting faster, so that led us to think about what our digital marketing industry may look like 20 or 30 years into the future. Here’s a few of the ideas that we came up with.

Techno, techno, techno

Over the last 20 years, the actual vibe in an agency has not changed enormously and neither has what we’re trying to do for our clients. What has advanced beyond all recognition is the technology we use, what can be measured and the turn-round times.

In the future, we’ll still be working to create change and deliver impact for clients, but the tactical approaches will change. We’ll rely more on insights and data to plan campaigns, it will become second nature to deliver highly personalised comms every time. However, a human mind and touch will always be needed. A data-driven approach only works when combined with your own experiences and instinct, e.g. a machine could tell you what design might work best for a campaign based on data available but there are other variables that can’t be quantified through data.

In terms of the physical agency environment, we think that, in 20 years’ time, nobody will have their own desk. We’ll all be part of virtual networks and only getting together (as agency members or with clients) once or twice a year. The mundane part of most jobs will be automated freeing us to be more creative and actually interact more. That interaction will still need to be face-to-face but with greater advances in tech we won’t physically be in the same room. We’ll also need to be adept at recruiting the right robot for our culture and supporting our virtual team.

Winners and losers

When considering which parts of the industry will grow and which will decline, we believe that the biggest expansion will be ‘film’. Brand films will become properly interactive, more tailored to individuals and able to deal with human interaction, for example, respond to voice commands. Film will evolve beyond recognition, supporting the customer’s intentions with relevant virtual worlds on demand - all underpinned with better use of data.

Audiences are already time poor and losing patience with mediocre, slow or uninteresting experiences. Our standards as users will only continue to increase, expecting more and more of our digital experiences. Only companies that recognise and address this demand will thrive in the future.

Specialisms will develop as more data is available. Years ago it would’ve been considered impossible to get into peoples’ minds and searching habits through keyword research. But as there’s more impetus on voice search; could phonetics and the study of voice become an important part of keyword research in the same way that researching how people type, behave and search online with a keyboard is today?

Careers of tomorrow

We think that AI and machine learning will be driving recruitment in 20 years’ time. The current face-to-face process feels out of date now, is cumbersome and based on gut instinct. HR departments will be powered by tech telling employers what they’re missing and employees what skills they need to develop/learn. With greater access to data and profiling of potential candidates the pre-selection of candidates will become quicker and along with cross-checking of experience and qualifications. The next stage will be ensuring the candidate’s ambitions, values and beliefs are all aligned before we actually meet candidates.

Traditional Dev skills will evolve into new environments such as AI - they always do out of necessity. The skills we need in our digital marketing team today - deciding on an approach, undertaking audits and research, defining a set of actions and implementing – will still be very transferable in the future.

Being able to research, interpret and understand changing user behaviours will still be the foundation of good SEO, if that’s what we still call it by then. Users will still be at the centre of every digital creation, so good structure, ease of use and most importantly, the opportunity to be found, will remain the guiding principles of SEO.

Henry Sanford is digital partner at creative agency AB

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