Media 2026: What kind of talent will agencies be hiring in 10 years’ time? | M&M Global

Media 2026: What kind of talent will agencies be hiring in 10 years’ time?

Ivor Falvey, global talent planning director at Dentsu Aegis Network, wonders what kinds of media jobs will be available for graduates in 2026.

Ivor Falvey

My eldest daughter Siun is 11 years old and has just started secondary school. This new stage in family life has sharpened my mind towards what job(s) she might want to do when she finishes her education.

I talk a lot about what daddy does with both of my girls. My youngest daughter Sorcha is nine. And it’s a fascinating exercise to begin to think about what new roles we will need and what my daughters might do for their own jobs in 10 years from now when they finish their schooling. Just what are the opportunities and options that may be available to them both by 2026?

Right now, part of my role here at Dentsu Aegis Network is to ensure that we have the right senior leadership in the right jobs, but also that we have great succession plans in place for what might happen next. This means not just attending to what we need to do for our clients right now, but in parallel, planning for what our clients might need us to do next, and therefore looking at ‘newer-in-kind’ or emerging capabilities we might need across the network.

The Corporate Executive Board (now known as CEB) suggests that, each year, 14% of leadership positions are newly created, which creates demand for successors who can take on unexpected new jobs. Up to 80% of the jobs that exist today may not exist by 2030. So there is a little bit of ‘future gazing’ involved trying to think about the shape of our industry by 2026.

The future is getting closer

But, with the pace of change we are encountering every day, even when I say the word future, I get a feeling that the horizon of anything in the ‘future’ is getting closer and closer.

Today, in 2016, our industry is being disrupted more quickly than any of us could have imagined 10 years ago. As a global agency network we have moved from being a fairly passive marketing communications partner to taking a leading position, embedded in every facet of our clients business, and working at the intersection of data, technology and marketing. Rising to the top table and being much more consultative in how we work, with an ambition to always be able to interpret the world as it comes at us for our clients.

It’s that really fine balance of attending to what our clients need us for right now, combined with having an eye on, and planning for, what they may need from us for next. It’s exciting!

“If things like ‘walled gardens’, chatbots, ad blockers and the ‘evolution of search’ are keeping us busy right now, what could be coming next?”

But what will our business look like in 10 years from now – by 2026? And what new jobs might exist for our daughters, sons, nieces and nephews?

If things like ‘walled gardens’, chatbots, ad blockers and the ‘evolution of search’ are keeping us busy right now, what could be coming next? And what does that mean in terms of capabilities we will need, and the new jobs we will see across our industry in the not so distant future? What jobs could my daughters be doing if they followed their dad into our business?

In the same way that the Star Trek of 20-plus years ago is credited for showcasing and hatching ideas around some of the technical innovations that we have in our world today, I believe that the global marketing communications industry will be responsible for spawning many of the most exciting jobs of the future. So here are a few hypotheses.

Chatbots and the internet of things (IOT)
Chatbots and the internet of things (IOT)

Dawn of the robots

The next decade will see the dawn of the robots. Soon there will be a $100 agricultural robot which will mean farmers in Third World world countries can then become managers of their fields instead of toiling all days on their fields. Chatbots will evolve into customer service robots and we will see personal assistant robots become the norm.

Computers are becoming exponentially better in understanding our world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected. It is predicted that, by 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Already in the US, young lawyers are failing to get jobs because IBM Watson can offer legal advice within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So I am not going to encourage my daughters to study law! There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future and only the very specialist will remain.

This fusion of AI and robotic engineering will free up initially thousands, but soon millions, of workers from everyday monotonous chores and tasks. We may all have a little more leisure time and be able to read more books, visit more art galleries and play more golf. But what about the jobs this new world may create outside of robotic engineering and machine learning? How will we transition into this environment and what skills will be in demand?

There is no doubt we are going to need skilled creatively-minded storytellers and communicators who can be the interface between humans and these new ‘superhuman’ machines. But what should the machines be allowed to do? And who should teach them how to do it? Who will teach the machines the right way to talk and relate to humans? We have all seen ‘The Terminator’ movies!

By 2026, our world will be so complex and connected that this role – managing the relationships between the machines and humans, and the morals and ethics behind these crucial relationships – will be one of the most important future jobs we will need.

As machine learning and automation become the norm, and as robots begin to take up lots of the jobs that humans do now – McKinsey & Co. are suggesting that in time this may be up to 60% of all current manual labour – the trust and relationship building skills and techniques of these people will be critical.

We will need these people to be able to convince society that this evolution of (super) humanity is the right way for us to go…..and they better be right. Even Bill Gates is quoted as saying that he doesn’t understand people who were not troubled by the possibility that AI could grow too strong for people to control.

Strong moral compass

So the people that we trust to have this vital role in our society will be crucial to the betterment of mankind in a world where the machines are just a little bit smarter than us. Along with the required technical skills, these people will need a strong moral compass, sound core values and a huge pull towards always doing the right thing.

And if we consider the marketing communications industry, as we continue to interpret this new world for our clients, and as we bring more data scientists and robotic engineers into our businesses, who then work with amazing creative storytellers and communicators, can we already see these types of people, in these types of jobs, being part of the Dentsu Aegis Network of the future, helping our clients to work with the machines and to position their brand messages in an ethical fashion to the right human audiences? Yes. We can.

In 2016 three billion people were connected to each other. By 2020 50 billion people and things will be connected.

“As the data lakes get bigger we will also need powerful storytellers to make sense of what the data is telling us”

Our homes and businesses will be immersed in the Internet of Things. Our fridges will talk to our phones who in turn will talk to our cars and our central heating systems. Billions of digitally connected devices will swap data to create a mind boggling global ‘data lake’. And all in real time.

In our industry, we are already hiring data scientists and insight and analytics directors. People who can analyse, interpret and help us to visualise this data to make it actionable insight and intelligence for our clients. But as the data lakes get bigger we will also need powerful storytellers to make sense of what the data is telling us and to explain it to the rest of us in ways we can understand and accept it.

These people will be able to notice patterns in the data and they will have honed predictive analytic skills that will help them to help us decide how best to develop the devices themselves, thereby optimising the sources of intelligence.

But these scientists, engineers, mathematics experts and statisticians will also need to have, or be partnered with, great creative skills, and be able to problem solve and be brave in looking for solutions around areas that are brand new in terms of where they could eventually take humanity determining the shape of our relationship with data, technology and machines.

VR Gear

The world of virtual reality

So now that I may have your ears pricked lets tackle an easy one: the world of virtual reality (VR).

So Sorcha, my nine year-old daughter, is fascinated with watching ‘make-up’ tutorials on YouTube and the whole word of Zoella. She uses FaceTime and Snapchat to communicate with her friends, has a great sense of humour, and is a bit an ‘actress’ so I can see her being very happy doing something similar.

My 11 year old daughter, Siun, loves playing and watching other people play…Minecraft. She also has already said she wants to be an architect. I see a way, and in the not too distant future, where she can combine both, and perhaps in our global marketing communications industry. Let me explain myself.

One of my first exposures to the potential of Virtual Reality was when I saw the film ‘The Lawnmower Man’ back in 1992 – a fascinating science fiction horror movie, and one to look up if you are of Millennial or Generation Z age.

Of course, since then we have moved on to the point where the potential of ubiquitous VR is, well, a reality. We now actually have headsets like Oculus Rift and even Google’s own Cardboard, which are helping to take VR to the masses.

Moving from the world of gaming into software application and consumer electronics, and now into our mobile world, it is predicted that more than 10 million virtual reality headsets will be sold next year in 2017.

In the coming decade new industries will emerge and VR will be the place where millions of us spend hours learning, working and playing every day. We will create living and working spaces that will enhance this activity and these spaces will be so interactive and immersive that it may be difficult to tell the virtual and real worlds apart.

By 2026 we will probably be able to touch, feel and smell in our virtual habitats. We will be able to create and build virtual worlds which cater for our everyday lives in terms of working and learning much better than anything we can create in the real world. So the people who can envisage these spaces, and who have these new VR capabilities and skills, our architects and designers of today, may spend more time crafting and building space in the virtual world than they do in the real world.

Blending skills

For the marketing communications industry, and specifically at Dentsu Aegis Network, we are already hiring more great people with these skills. Combining animation, 3D modelling and motion capturing expertise, and bringing them together, and creating teams of people, who also have a mixture of design, architecture and behavioural science along with psychology skills.

Blending these skills together we are creating powerful and exciting new entertainment and learning environments in virtual reality, and pioneering how we present our clients brands, products and services to their consumers. This is an increasingly important part of our future and the suite of services we offer our clients. And it may just be a job that Siun might want to do.

“We are also competing with every data and technology business searching for the STEM gradate superstars of tomorrow”

So my timing might be a little out. But in a world where Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognise faces better than humans, where new smart phones already have 3D scanning possibilities and you can 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home, my guess is that these ‘newer-in-kind’ or emerging jobs might be here sooner than I have hypothesised.

Whenever the exact year, this world and these types of jobs are coming soon. As an industry we need to face up to the (real) reality that, for us, the global war on talent has been extended. Yes, we are competing with the likes of IBM, McKinsey & Co, Accenture. But we are also competing with every data and technology business searching for the STEM gradate superstars of tomorrow.

So whether it’s a world-famous YouTube influencer make-up artist for Sorcha, or indeed a superstar virtual reality architect for Siun, I am confident my daughters will have these choices as jobs by the time they are ready to enter the workforce in 2026. Food for thought around the dinner table at home.

Ivor Falvey

Global talent planning director, Dentsu Aegis

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