Humans Will Rule the Marketing Machines in 2018 and Beyond

As technology continues to evolve at an exceptional rate, the human vs. machine debate becomes ever more prevalent, and the fear job functions may become obsolete grows stronger. In fact a study from Pew Research Center revealed almost three-quarters (75%) of U.S. adults are worried about a future where robots and computers can do human jobs.

This is particularly relevant to the marketing industry, where escalating connectivity has resulted in an explosion of new channels and tactics, automated advertising and data-driven targeting are already mainstream, and technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are regularly employed.

But the reality is, technological developments within marketing are pushing the industry in a positive direction and will bring a host of new opportunities over the coming year.

Technology is a catalyst for positive change

Automation usually creates more job roles than it eliminates, with occupations evolving alongside technology rather than being replaced by it, and this is certainly true within marketing.

Take the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for example. As the first global set of rules to regulate privacy in an increasingly connected world, the industry is preparing by creating job roles to help meet its stringent terms. The most obvious new role is the Data Protection Officer; a must for businesses carrying out behaviour tracking, which is key to data-driven marketing. In addition there is a significant rise in jobs quoting GDPR, such as GDPR Project Manager and GDPR Consultant, according to Technojobs Data, with these roles attracting an average salary of £60,000.

Another example of technology driving employment is the role of the data scientist, which was little known ten years ago but is much sought after today. Next year demand for data scientists is expected to exceed supply by over 50% worldwide, creating huge opportunities for those looking to enter this profession. We already have 22 people working on the data science and tech team at Sublime Skinz – four with a machine learning background – and we’ll be looking to hire ten more next year.

But data and tech’s not just for the experts

It’s not only ‘experts’ such as data scientists that need to work alongside new technologies, the role of marketers is also evolving to include more technical aspects. With data usage becoming commonplace in modern day business, marketers are conducting simple data analysis themselves, as well as interpreting insights provided by data scientists through more complex analysis. Data is generated by real people and so requires a flexible human brain to comprehend it and generate the right insights – a task beyond the machines’ remit.

Instead of replacing job functions, tech developments should be used as tools to support marketing efforts. According to a DMA Awards survey, almost three quarters of marketers (74%) believe a machine can never replicate the creativity of a person, but marketers still need to be open to new technologies and adapt their roles accordingly.

The need for some technological understanding is permeating job roles in all sectors of the industry from premium publishers to brand marketers; even bloggers need a basic understanding of SEO to drive traffic and search engine rankings. As marketing relies ever more heavily on technologies such as AI and machine learning, all marketing occupations need to evolve to include an element of technological know-how.

Tech can narrow the gender divide

The presence of women in tech roles has traditionally been limited, leading some to predict increased reliance on technology will widen gender inequality in employment, but this need not necessarily be the case.

The number of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) occupations is on the rise, with UK numbers increasing by 61,430 in 2017, compared to 2016.

The number of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) occupations is on the rise, with UK numbers increasing by 61,430 in 2017, compared to 2016. In the U.S. women now account for more than 40% of graduates with a degree in statistics, which is a strong starting point for a career in data science.

Across the world new awards and initiatives are emerging to provide opportunities and to advance the status of women in tech, including Germany’s Digital Female Leader  and Inspiring Fifty, a European programme to reward the women leading the technology sector. Countries as diverse as Russia and Hawaii are introducing initiatives to encourage women into tech, and the UK has the WISE campaign; an initiative that rallies for gender balance in science, technology and engineering.

Despite these very positive advances, there is still a marked imbalance in many areas of tech, with women only holding 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley companies, for instance.

Despite these very positive advances, there is still a marked imbalance in many areas of tech, with women only holding 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley companies, for instance. Work is still needed to drive adoption of tech as a female career choice and to continue positive developments, further redressing the gender balance in technology. While I’ve seen change at a personal level, with 50% of the Sublime Skinz workforce now female, this isn’t always reflected across departments. So, as we approach the new year, I hope to see these initiatives driving a further uptake of women in core STEM occupations.

There’s every indication 2018 will be a progressive year for the marketing industry, with new jobs being created, existing roles evolving alongside innovative technologies, and women increasingly taking up employment in the marketing technology sector. There’s an exhilarating journey of technological innovation and development ahead but for the foreseeable future, humans will still rule the marketing machines.

Dr. Coralie Petermann

Director of Data Science at Sublime Skinz
Coralie launched and leads the data science and research & development team at Sublime Skinz. She uses her passion for programming, algorithms, data-analysis, and project management to take charge of data collection, data wrangling, and data enrichment for both first and third-party data. She has a PhD in computer science, statistics and cognition as well as two Masters degrees, one in Development of Distributed Applications and a second in Sciences and Information and Communication Technologies.

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