Wharton University’s Future of Advertising programme has reached out to thought leaders, innovators and visionaries worldwide for their insights into the future. Each was asked two simple questions: what could advertising look like in 2020; what should we do now for that future? Wharton has recently published Richard Robinson’s views…

Looking towards 2020, we see confident, commercially savvy agencies working in partnership with companies and their brands to create tangible growth. The purpose and value of agencies will be firmly re-established in the minds of the CEO and the CMO and at the heart of their success will be the right talent in the right place at the right time.

Digital has changed the game and opened up unlimited business opportunities and as Jenny Ashmore, President of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Marketing, comments, “The most successful marketing functions of the future will champion sustainable growth. Supporting them, agencies will provide the big opportunities while the most successful client/agency relationships will work seamlessly together to unlock, drive and deliver new growth.”

It’s all about the people, stupid

For 2020, we predict a new breed of advertising people: quasi-strategic leader – quasi-creative – quasi-techno consultant.

Global birthrate decline, mass urbanisation and new technologies putting customers in the driving seat will call for a new mindset to uncover critical insights to influence purchasing behaviour. By 2020, a third of all customer purchases will be made online, and Voice Command and Mobility will be the norm – significantly changing the way we interact with brands.

A new generation will intuitively understand a borderless world and its global, digitally native population. So to survive and win, agencies will need to seek out this new workforce.

The challenge will be how to attract, develop and retain the best and the brightest without the pay of Wall Street or the glitter of Silicon Valley. This has never been tougher, and promises to get tougher still. Today 60% of Millennials leave their jobs within three years with many companies clinging to old ways of working – incompatible to Millennials and post-Millennials. Eighty million strong in the US alone, this is the biggest generation of talent and customers ever. Brands that fail to engage will simply disappear.

It’s really no surprise that senior marketing leaders tell us again and again that their greatest stress-point is knowing where their future talent will come from.

The inspirational Lincoln Stephens, Co-Founder of The Marcus Graham Project, shared his take on the talent future, “In the year 2020, I hope that agencies are more reflective of the world we live in.  If we are the true communicators and stewards of our brands’ marketing efforts, we need to ensure that our agencies recognise the rich diversity across the globe and reflect that with cultural relevance and with a new guard approach to our hiring practices.”

Happily, Lincoln’s vision is already alive as agencies change hiring policies to unearth exciting new talent. In the UK, Beattie McGuinness Bungay is working hard to create an ‘UnGrad scheme’ where it recruits regardless of a degree. Organisations like The Ideas Foundation are pioneering creative programmes for schools – actively showing that advertising welcomes diverse talent, giving children a chance to develop real-life skills with industry leaders such as Sir John Hegarty, Robin Wight and Rory Sutherland. As trustee, I’m elated to see great results as big brands like Barclays, HSBC and E-ON collaborate with agencies to find the next generation of talent.

Time: The new competitive advantage

I believe agencies will aggressively harness Time to power-speed delivery and innovate campaigns and ideas like never before. Time will no longer be clustered with cost and quality as a point of discussion. It will become a killer advantage that agencies compete on to impact directly on to the bottom line. Today, we see thrilling real-time campaigns for Oreo, Coca-Cola and Old Spice at events like Super Bowl. Tomorrow these will be commonplace as customers expect their brands to talk in real-time, every time.

Kimberly-Clark’s Robbert Rietbroek, Corporate Vice President & CEO, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, believes that by 2020 speed and content creation will be the key to success. “Long lead times will be a thing of the past, and direct, immediate branded expressions will be created in real-time and at low cost in a digital world. Brands will have to immerse themselves fully into the daily reality, be highly responsive to trends and events, and dynamic as a result.”

The customer remains king

Our 2020 media-neutral world will seamlessly sew together insight, digital and a new guard of talent to ensure that the customer becomes the only real consideration of importance. “By 2020 advertising will be completely personal and at the behest of the consumer. Advertisers will need to be on when the consumer wants them to be on and learn a whole new approach to engaging at the right time, in the right place and only when they are needed,” predicts Dominic Lyle, Director General of the European Association of Communication Agencies.

My own personal belief is that the very best CMOs will be those who are proud to bring the customer into the boardroom and unashamed in making every aspect of their brand deliver against their needs.

Are we there yet?

Consider this Robinson Crusoe economic theory: Of the 168 hours a week brands and their agencies could spend supporting the customer, only a pitiful 40 make it into work time. The customer, meanwhile, is fired up for 168. Harness the missing 128 hours and business will triumph.

At Oystercatchers we see lost opportunities resulting from old-school attitudes towards Time, marketing models and people. Too often points of disconnect still exist between the marketer, their agencies and the customer thanks to archaic client/agency models predicated on a pre-digital view of customer need and an ongoing belief in Push communications. By 2020, customers will dictate when and where they want to receive advertising and my take is that ownership of the 168 hours always-on model will be the key to sustainable growth – but we have a way to go and much of the technology does not exist yet.

The challenge is set. Bring on 2020. /wfoa.wharton.upenn.edu/perspective/richard-robinson

Richard’s article has also been posted by MandM Global.http://www.mandmglobal.com/community/blog/14-10-22/Fix-my-business-%E2%80%93-not-my-marketing.aspx