Listen to Episode 1

Veli Aghdiran, the APAC Talent Development and Cultural Director at Essence, sees first-hand why AI promises to create more interesting, relevant and useful marketing messages, bespoke to every person.

Here lies the opportunity to make advertising more empathetic and purposeful, to go beyond thinking of the consumer in a traditional sense and to help understand the ‘true’ needs of each specific consumer in each specific situation. 

So there is a lot changing when it comes to talent, clients and industry positioning. Media agencies face the challenge to develop their employees’ skills and competencies while at the same time reinventing how to attract new talent.

Essence has grown incredibly quickly over the last 12 years, and what what they do has changed even more. Essence’s intention when it was founded was to disrupt advertising. Over 12 years, Veli has seen advertising change from a madman environment to a commoditised, global digital environment with agencies obsessing over data to add value for clients. Essence's success has come about because they are ahead of the curve in digital. When Veli joined five years ago when there were two offices and 200 people and six years later they are up to 12 offices and over 750 people, with further investment on the way from WPP. 

Their rates of attrition are unusually low, a point of pride to Veli who works on Essence's culture across APAC, their fastest growing region. Their clients are often CMOs who are more accountable than ever for revenue outcomes. This is forcing advertising agencies to push the boundaries of data science, optimisation and artificial intelligence to solve the most difficult problems in industry.

Over the long term, marketing will move to experimentation, based on analytics. But that’s not what sells product. It’s the ‘art’ of marketing that sells the product and the team's strengths reflect this. Essence is moving away from a structure where teams are doing everything for a client to a structure where they are focusing on having people in practice areas based upon the stages of an advertising campaign. This means job tasks and roles are changing at Essence across Strategy & Analytics, Media Activation, Media Planning, Client Service and Operations. 

Jobs will change most around data science, data analysis, creativity, conceptual thinking, collaboration, communication and decision making. For Essence and others, it will be an uphill battle to find the best— especially in areas that require expertise in data science, big data and analytics.  This HBR article on the future of jobs provides a useful framework to thinking more about these changes in marketing by the authors of Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines. 

What that means for workers is that automation will take away the routine, predictable data input and analysis. This follows the pattern that process innovation enabled by technology has seen particular routine, predictable job tasks lost, while product and business innovation has seen jobs tasks gained. 

By adopting a strategy that sees technology augmenting human skills rather than being seen as a replacement technology quicker than their competitors, Essence has gained an edge. Technology will need skilled technical people to work on current technologies and make them function, but also technologists focused on designing tomorrow’s technologies.

As Veli notes, only human can look at the context of a meeting with a client, pick up on a cue like the sigh of a client and other intangibles, then make a judgment on all this to tease out the relevant details from a client. Post-campaign, it means there’s putting together a coherent, meaningful narrative that makes sense to a client. 

This is an exciting time to be in advertising for smart people, who are curious about the future of digital marketing. You can take a look at the open roles at Essence here