“You’re a knowledge worker in the 21st century? You’re in the people business”
Last week I stood in front of 200 people and boldly made that claim.
It’s a claim that especially holds in the advertising and media industry. The roles of knowledge workers — people whose job is to think — are morphing and re-forming at a terrific rate. In other words, our industry is undergoing seismic talent upheaval.
True, a lot of industries are, but media is changing faster. Industries that are capital-based (manufacturing, petroleum, mining) have built-in resistors to change and adapt more slowly. Industries like ours that are people-and-relationship-based have less resistance to new ideas, concepts and technology, and can move at a dizzying pace.
But before I explore that thought, let’s talk about causes, about why so many of us are now in the people business. Three causes, to be exact.
1. Democratization of media
I talked about democratization of media in my last post and its effects on content vs. advertising. Now I want to talk about the effects it has on talent in our industry.
With this democratization comes increased competition to your brand. There should be no doubt in any marketer’s mind that you are competing with millions of micro-creators for your customer’s attention …
… Every … Single … Day.
With that comes an exponential need for creative output. Teams have to be cleverer more often to grab consumer attention. Naturally, in this environment the winners are the marketers with access to the most diverse creative talent pool.
Please don’t confuse that with multiple creative people working on the same project! That’s just too many cooks in the kitchen. I’m saying here that you need a broad spectrum of talented creatives on your roster.
2. Shareholder value equation
The shareholder value of your brand, that’s another topic I raised in my last post. Shareholder value used to track fairly closely to media dollars spent. But in the age of authenticity, company culture, vision and quality of delivery are at least as important — if not more. Now it takes much more than spending to raise brand value.
Practically, what does that means for the people in charge of influencing public opinion about your brand, i.e. marketers?
It means a need for even broader access to business “thinkers.” Call them consultants, strategists, fuzzy apples, whatever. An effective CMO must tap into a broad range of talents — product experts, technology experts, media experts — to deliver the best solution.
Once again we’re faced with a situation where a large and diverse talent pool can be advantageous.
3. Media consumption habits
The third factor is ever-changing media consumption habits. The rate of change of these habits is drastically faster than what it was, and ever-increasing. People just don’t get their information the same way they did even a few years ago.
For example, for many years we went through a period of divergence of platforms, where a new social media app would emerge every other month. But recently, they have been converging. Today we have an effective duopoly that dominates media and advertising dollars. But even inside those the rules of the game are constantly changing.
For marketers it simply means that the need for vastly different production skills has increased. Yet again, a situation where access to a diverse talent pool is the competitive advantage.
One result? The rise of the freelancer
So we need more diverse creative thinkers, multi-faceted consultants, and a broader technical skills in order to be good marketers.
How do we do that? Do we keep searching for a super-star unicorn? That’s one approach, if you truly believe that one individual can do it all. The more realistic approach is what is actually happening in the market place right now…
The move from full-time to freelance talent
Whether it’s on the creative-and-production front or the business-and-consulting side, more and more top talent is specializing in a discipline and offering that service as a contractor. Given the ever-increasing number of skill-sets needed in the marketing world, and the mobility of work, this trend only makes sense.
Marketing service providers are realizing that they cannot offer every service to their clients with their existing talent. It’s just not an effective business model. So they use freelancers in one capacity or another, just audit your current agency talent and you’ll see.
The net net? You need diverse talent
Access to a large and diverse talent pool is the new competitive advantage in marketing, a competitive advantage that is rapidly becoming a necessity. I have build my own agency solely on this model.
In my experience, marketing services providers also need to dedicate a significant portion of their resources towards maintaining a pool of freelancers diverse in skill sets and backgrounds.
After all, we’re in a people business. Now more than ever!