Will the last person in Marketing please turn out the lights?

Why marketing could soon go the way of bus conducting and meter reading as a profession

It’s happening. Self-checkouts. Robot vacuum cleaners. Driverless cars. The age of automation is well and truly here.

Saving us time and money. Helping us lead better, happier, fitter lives. And along the way, making us surplus to requirement.

According to Deloitte, about 1 in 3 jobs in the UK are at high risk of disappearing in the next 10-20 years due to automation.

That’s if they’re not going, going, gone already.

Think about it, how many office secretaries, meter readers, machine operators, bus conductors or even travel agents, do you know now?

It’s just a matter of time before these jobs become as quaint and obscure as the cordwainers, curriers and wheelwrights of old.

Robot workforce

Robot workforce

Okay, businesses say that the jobs being lost on these isles due to automation (actually about 41% of all job losses vs 27% to offshoring) are being replaced in other areas.

Good news for those in professions with digital know-how, management capability or creativity – which are in demand. Bad news for the low paid though. Jobs paying less than £30k are 5x more likely to be automated than those paying £100k.

In Marketing? Don’t hold your breath

So all you marketers out there may be breathing a sight of relief for the time being (particularly the well paid ones), but how long before the robots want a piece of the marketing action?

For sure, marketing automation is already a big deal. But it’s still tantamount to teenage sex – where everyone’s talking about it but very few are actually doing it. And those that are partaking in many instances are still trying to work out how to do it properly. I mean a few automated emails, landing pages and workflows are not quite threatening our livelihood just yet. But it’s a start.

Then there’s programmatic advertising – the much talked about automation of the buying, placement and optimisation of media inventory. 78% of ‘high-level decision-makers’ are now using programmatic technologies and strategies across campaigns. But there are still shortcomings – especially when it comes to concerns as to whether ads are actually being viewed by real people – or somewhat ironically ‘bots’. That said, I’m sure programmatic advertising is giving more than a few media planners and buyers a niggling doubt about their long-term prospects.

We may well be seeing more content marketing professionals in gainful employment, but how long for? Even the process of generating, publishing and distributing content is getting automated.

The process of marketing can and will ultimately be honed to perfection thanks to intelligent, self-learning machines – without the need for an army of marketers to stoke the fire.

Robots 1 Marketers 0

The thing is, there’s no point in fighting it. The process of marketing can and will ultimately be honed to perfection thanks to intelligent, self-learning machines – without the need for an army of marketers to stoke the fire.

You could argue it will then all be about creativity – when everything is optimised to the hilt – where it won’t be about how to reach but how to engage. Then it’ll be down to whether you can capture hearts and minds better than the next brand.

However, I don’t even think the Creatives out there can be smug. Because my guess is we’ll see a future where there’ll be an algorithm which can perfectly match consumers and businesses with what’s exactly right for them. An algorithm that can calculate the right product or service, right there, right then, based on knowing everything about the buyer – their circumstances, anticipated needs, past purchases, the consequences of those purchases – all coupled with total knowledge of what’s available. And at that point, there’s no need for creativity. There’s arguably no need to make choices. Machines do it on our behalf. And then my friends, the marketing profession will be defunct.

It’s not so much a question of if, it’s a question of when. I’d say see you down the Job Centre. But there’s a good chance there won’t be one. However, until then let’s make hay while the sun shines – though I’m sure there’ll be an app for that too soon.