Brian Cunningham | The big debate: Is 2017 the best time to be a marketer?

From creative programmatic and targeted content to emerging technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence, the sheer variety of ways to communicate with consumers makes 2017 an exciting time to be in marketing.

Unilever chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed, however, would go a step further. Speaking at Advertising Week Europe last month, Weed argued that the rapid pace of innovation, coupled with the plethora of methods available to engage with consumers makes 2017 not only exciting, but actually the best time to be a marketer.

“I genuinely believe this is the best time to be in marketing and advertising, because so much is changing and it’s so exciting. I’ve never done a job this long before, but I’m not doing the same job as I was doing seven years ago. It’s radically changed,” he explained.

“To me the exciting thing is there have never been so many ways to engage with people in a two-way conversation. Making sure you’re on top of innovation and working out what’s going on is tremendous. I can’t believe there is anything more exciting just now.”

Exciting yes, challenging definitely. This is the era of fake news, ad fraud and dubious metrics. So far in 2017 high profile advertisers from McDonald’s to L’Oreal have pulled spend from Google and YouTube in fear their adverts might appear next to extremist content.

Consumers are also more engaged with brand messaging then ever. This proved to be the downfall of Pepsi’s latest campaign, which was pulled after a matter of days following a savage social media backlash accusing the drinks giant of co-opting the Black Lives Matter global protest movement.

The “always on” nature of the digital age has given consumers the tools to make their voices heard and have more control over content, notes Sulinna Ong, vice president of artist marketing at music streaming site Deezer.

She believes in 2017 any marketer worth their salt must understand how to utilise all the digital tools at their disposal to create meaningful engagement, which then gives them the opportunity push innovation and creativity up the agenda.

“New technology and the continued rise of social media have dramatically increased demand for authentic and exciting conceptual work, producing creative 360-degree campaigns that may otherwise have been flagged as “too risky” in the past. Now – more than ever before – the appetite for experimentation drives innovation,” says Ong.

This opinion is shared by Creative England marketing manager Rachel Graye, who believes the digital age has broadened marketers’ ability to build relationships with consumers.

“Digital advancements definitely make marketing more exciting. I see it as an advantage to have even more tools at our disposal to get closer to the consumer. Social and influencer marketing, for example, allows us to connect with people in a more meaningful way,” she explains.

READ MORE: Is digital an effective mass market medium?

“It also allows marketing teams to work more closely as different expertise needs to come together for it to work as a whole. Content marketing forces us to be more creative, which is a challenge and an opportunity to create something new and re-write the rule book – what’s more exciting than that?”
Increasing accountability

Marketing effectiveness is under the microscope like never before, putting teams under increasing pressure to deliver tightly defined KPIs that directly impact the bottom line.

It is for this reason 2017 brings with it more complexity and accountability, says Dixons Carphone commercial marketing director Jonathan Earle. He argues short-term thinking in the boardroom means marketers are not even given enough time to hold their nerve if the numbers are not coming in.

“It’s got to be immediate response rates and that can also add pressure, because campaigns could be launching new products or services, and it takes time to drive into people’s psyches what you’re doing. Sometimes the ROI has got to be immediate otherwise it’s a failure.”

That being said, Earle believes making marketers accountable for driving real business growth can only be a good thing, as it shows marketing is being seen as a revenue generator not a cost centre.

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