This is not your grandfather’s ad agency anymore.

Reduced_blog_Animation I really didn’t see this coming. For years I tried to avoid it. Maybe, subconsciously I didn’t pick up those phone calls or return those emails as quickly as I should have. But ultimately, I knew that the day would come. I just wasn’t expecting it this soon.

I have officially become that wise old guy who young folks come to for career advice.

Perhaps I am overstating the “wise” part, but it is unmistakable that I am old. And after 30 years working in marketing and advertising, my friends’ kids are now hitting me up for advice about this crazy business. The inherent challenge with this responsibility is actually providing these young professionals with helpful information. What if I give them the wrong advice? Will they blame me forever? Will they end up homeless living in cardboard boxes?

Nevertheless, I take these calls and meetings day after day. And I truly attempt to do my best to provide information that is specific enough to show that I know what is going on, but vague enough to be interpreted in many different ways. The three common questions that I have received from these newcomers to the workplace is “What the hell is going on with advertising and media?” “Is there really a future for me or will the robots take over?” And “Should I get out now?”

The answers are “I don’t know.” “I don’t know.” And “I don’t know” in that order.

Well that wasn’t particularly helpful was it?

The media landscape has been changing for years. So “what is going on with advertising and media?” could be answered simply – – It’s changing. And it will continue to change. Both the consumption of media and the money allocated to the various channels is changing. TV and Print consumption continues to fall as does the ad spend for each. TV has dropped to 37% of time spent and 41% of ad spending. Print is in a more dire space with only 4% of time spent and a plummeting 18% of ad spend (which sounds high when you think about it).

It is interesting to see that the consumption of people on the “internet” has lessened to 24% of consumer’s time spent while its ad spend has increased to 23%. The only media that has actually increased in time spent is mobile media. And that is not the least bit surprising with you look around and see nearly every single person on the streets, in their cars and in coffee shops with their noses prominently propped up against their iPhone screens. Mobile now accounts for 24% of all time spent but only 8% of ad spending. So, maybe I should advise these kids to get into mobile advertising? It seems to present the biggest opportunity. See what I mean? Specific but vague advice.

The next question of “Is there a future for me or will the robots take over?” is another tough question to answer. While there are many people that I know who have raced to get out of digital media planning and buying, there are still quite a few left that understand the value that they bring to their clients. But that value is diminishing with the proliferation of automated planning and optimization tools that are overly hyped by programmatic media companies as the panacea for all marketing challenges. So maybe I should advise these kids to apply for a sales role at a programmatic media agency?

A couple years back I read an article about the US economy and the impact of off-shoring work. In this article they stated that jobs that include repetitive tasks with no requirement for creativity are the most likely to be offshored. These are jobs that robots could most likely do more efficiently…and probably will one day. So my advice to these recent college graduates is to look for a job that is not repetitive in nature and requires them to think creatively. And the good news is that creativity takes many forms in advertising. If you are not a designer or copywriter you can still help shape strategies for products and services and help build upon creative concepts.

The final question of “Should I get out now?” is a lot tougher to answer. Advertising is not going away. It will continue to evolve. We have heard many people talk about the future of advertising and the impact that content will have in this space. I happen to think that content will drive the future advertising and marketing. And content will take many forms. So I don’t really think this is the time to get out of the biz. I actually think this is the time to get engaged in figuring out new and innovative ways to insinuate content into a client’s advertising and marketing efforts. We have seen great examples in social media, public relations, sponsorships and events over the last few years. The lines have become blurred in this space and all of the old rules can be broken. Most of the old traditional agencies are going through the task of reinventing themselves. The good news is, the kids coming out of school now are the people who will make this happen.

This is not your grandfather’s ad agency anymore.