by Carl Cardinelli (@CarlCardinelli) Now that escalated quickly.

What a downer. Why bother entertaining what looks to be another self-serving and/or depressing take on what the future holds for us selfie-absorbed talking apes? Like you, a burning question keeps me up at night. One plagued with both excitement and, equally so, concern. “What comes next?”

We’ve all come to accept that technology is the future of business. Not our business. All business. If you haven’t yet or refuse to accept this — please do. For your sake, and the sake of your future 12 cats. From the advertising executive to the humble bartender, everything we do is either influenced by or fully vested in technology and its consistent ‘tomorrowness’. Hold up, did you say bartender? Here’s the thing. There’s even a robot programmed to pour the perfect pint — and it will end up costing everyone (yes, the business and the consumer) considerably less.

History repeats. History repeats

We’ve spent thousands of years perfecting tools to reduce physical labour — mechanical muscles that accelerate societal and economical growth. That’s a good thing, right? Innovative thinking resulting in less heavy-lifting, allowing for more innovative thinking. Meta.

Granted, this scenario doesn’t play out so well for those muscle-clad whose livelihoods depend upon the need for physical labour. The industrial revolution resulted in hundreds of millions of retrenchments and the eradication of jobs altogether over the past three hundred years.

Here’s a fun fact

Right now, at this very second, somewhere in the world there’s a software developer inventing something that will put you out of a job.

Without any prior warning, the human race set its sights on creating mechanical minds to, you guessed it, accelerate societal and economic growth. The difference this time is that the maker won’t be rewarded with mere naming rights and a footnote in a textbook. This time, the reward is god status. The world will sing their name, from Paris to Pakistan. Top that off with a ridiculous pay-cheque donning a dollar sign and 10 zeros, and it all becomes rather palpable. And guess what? You don’t even require seven years of studies to become this deity. All you need is an idea, a device and some developer software. Sweet.

Fast-forward to today and there’s a bot for everything, eg a medical bot named Watson, who understands infinitely more than its human counterpart. Now it’s both collars — blue and white — who are in danger of losing their jobs to a machine paired with carefully arranged zeros and ones. If you haven’t seen one that does your job, it’s because they’re busy finishing off the paint job.

But luckily — we’re safe. We’re marketers. Advertisers. Writers. Art directors. Designers. Artists. No machine can come close to doing what we do. Phew, good thing we didn’t listen to our parents, choosing doodling over doctoring (Watson’s coming for you, Doogie Howser).

Creative bots

This part is as hard to write as it is to read. Consider the following: our brains may be described as complex and highly complicated machines. When we have an idea, or produce an artwork, we’re extracting inspiration from our frame of reference — or a lifetime of programming.

Just as bots can learn to paint according to what they ‘see’, they are capable of learning different techniques and outcomes from what they do.

Something scary: if you’ve read a newspaper lately, you’ve probably read the musings of, you guessed it, a writing bot.

Now let’s take a deeper dive down the wormhole

When (not if) an agency’s job is feeding computers the correct information (brief), and it spits out creative expression far superior and infinitely cheaper than a creative team consisting of (and bankrolling) account directors, creative directors, writers, designers etc, what comes next?

Does X Bank go with the large agency 1000 times more-expensive with a lesser-calculated strategy/idea for success, or the cheaper alternative with guaranteed results and no one but Jenny in bot maintenance to support?

Right, let’s get sci-freaky

Should a bot be permitted to enter advertising awards? If the answer’s no, then you may have just admitted to yourself that there’s a strong possibility that bots could do your job better than you. Furthermore, what would you say if I told you that you are already competing with bots at award shows, and you don’t even know it?

“Don’t be an ass. That’s the f***ing stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Easy there, anger management. Hear me out. Think about what won the last 50 Cyber Lions over the past few years [and the new Creative Data Lions — ed-at-large]. Think about what you’ve entered. Think about what wins.

“Well, it was a f***ing killer idea, thought up by a PERSON.”


“And the idea paired with its results impressed the judges to such an extent that it won gold”.

The results?

“Yes, fool, the results. The ROI. That enormous boat of cash we paid to a digital media agency which was converted into automated processes layered with behavioral or audience data within the platform, boosting posts and calculated targeting — aka programmatic buyiOH MY GOD THERE ARE ROBOTS ENTERING AWARD SHOWS.”

Indeed, nine out of 10 times, the agencies which win ‘creative’ effectiveness and ROI-based awards are the ones which can afford the most assistance from their future employers (see: enslavers).

So, what’s comes next?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Defining the future of advertising is futile. That being said, it’s fun to speculate. Here’s my prediction.

Social media (perhaps Facebook, if it lasts) will be real-life (simulated) encounters with people and content; the only thing different will be that it will occur on screen/Oculus rather than in the nasty real world. It’s cold out there — and there are analogue humans.

So, fast-forward a little (and I mean a little). You’re sitting there in your VR room, wearing your nanobot bio-suit (capable of making you feel any sensation on any part of your body) and your fantasy VR lover walks ‘in’. Designed by you, naturally what approaches is the most-gorgeous ‘being’ according to your unique taste. Affectionately, they begin to rub your shoulders, moving up to your neck. You feel it. It’s warm. Passionate. They lean over, and whisper softly in your ear. “Babe, have you heard that Michael de Broglio Attorneys have a no-win no-fee policy?” Crap. Should have footed the US$1 to eliminate ads.

The future is lazy

And subsequently has little need for your hardearned degrees, skills and awards. However, tenure is up for the special few.

History repeats. An engineer is now a software engineer. It was all so obvious. And, ultimately, it’s our obsession with doing nothing that will force us to work harder than ever before. In that lies the light at the end of the tunnel. As long as you aim at putting yourself out of business, every day, your job is safe.

In my opinion, there are things that bots will never do. Bots will never get that euphoric sense of elation when cracking a big idea, or solving a real-world problem. Bots will never get to use the sweet spot, hidden somewhere between sleep-deprivation and royally screwed. Software will never shit the bed. There’s something in all of that. Bots can never relate to a human on a primal, empathetic level. In other words, we just have to be better at being more human; better at doing what we’re meant to be doing.

Will bots calculate only on ‘what is possible’? Because most of us spend our days pitching the impossible (with a 1% hit rate). For a bot, there is no motivation, ambition or drive, or true empathy — only programming. These are our only weapons for securing our place in the metaphorical cubicle of 2025.

Summing it up

There’s one simple rule when looking forward to an employed future.

Innovate faster than software can be developed.

Take a chance on your foresight. Use calculated speculation to your advantage. While bots may have a future in replicating what we do, they cannot replicate what we have yet to do. If the brain is indeed a complex and complicated machine (far superior to that of any bot), we will always have the (slightest) advantage — should we choose to use it.

Though it all seems terrifying, I, for one, cannot wait to see what comes next.

See also


Carl CardinelliCarl Cardinelli (@CarlCardinelli) began his career in branding and communications in 2003, spending the better part of six years establishing himself in London. Upon his return to South Africa in 2012, he was selected to lead Utopia, the “screw-the-line” agency based in Cape Town. When not heading up a team of unruly young admen, he can be found brewing his own beer, picking out a new pair of sneakers or travelling the globe in search of live music. Carl contributes the monthly “The Adtagonist” column, in which he challenges perceptions of the advertising industry and its practices for the next generation of marketers, to

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