An Accountant in Adland: Back to the future [S2 E4]
by Siwe Lawrence (@Siwe_Lawrence) As we immerse ourselves more into our careers and industries, we strategists want to at least know what the trend analysts say. We await the annual trend reports to direct us, to help us fill in the gaps of what we’re supposed to know and what we’re supposed to anticipate. We don’t think about it this way but trend reports are horoscopes but for industries. *chuckles*
A slice of the future
2020 is here and there are no flying cars, which means the M1 is still a horrendous experience every morning this year. No aerial views as we fly to work, either. Michael J Fox’s character, Marty McFly, and Christopher Lloyd as Dr Emmett “Doc” Brown were a bit off the mark when they travelled to the future in the late ’80s.
“Back to the Future” was one of those movies which showed the desire to imagine a world different to the current experience. To see it and being able to manipulate it so suits us in the present. As a teen, what always fascinated me about this movie was the notion that a kid as young as me could have a hand in changing the course of history and the future at the same time. When I wasn’t building forts and tree houses, I was watching that movie over and over, wishing that I could have a slice of the future. Fast-forward to today — wouldn’t that superpower be nice, still?
As we grow up, some of us feed that craving through reading horoscopes, hoping to find something good in our futures or to prepare us for any indication of something going wrong. While stars are just burning balls of ancient fire a million kilometres away, ‘reading them’ for direction seems a bit of a stretch.
Chuckles aside, I find myself asking what the future of my two disciplines look like. Do they nett out at the same place? And what is the road to a future me?
Doc: Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
The future of thinkers
McFly: Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?
Doc: The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?
Future thinkers are insatiably curious and overly informed to guide how they add their style to the ordinary way they do things. Future thinkers are inspiring the creation of sustainable brand experiences more than brands that entertain for bursts of a time. Customer experience (CX) is that new DeLorean that’s going to be used to build a robust brand that’ll be remembered for the future to come. As strategic planners, we need to focus the work “on customer experience for clients this year, and some agencies are benefitting from the rise of experience-focused direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands”. Further, future strategists will be experienced as ‘new brand guardians’.
According to WARC’s “Future of Strategy Report”, 63% of strategists doesn’t think their next role will be with an agency. It also found that strategists have moved to consultancies that generally have tech and data heritages which allow them to show up as experience experts and to work on upstream business problems.
Albert Einstein once observed: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” While it’s nice to be in the eye of the data and technological advancement storm, the future thinker should never forget about “that thing” that makes us human — the magic of real life, the ability to feel and experience things.
The future of accounting for money
Doc: You’re Just Not Thinking Fourth Dimensionally.
Similarly, the accountant who looks after agencies and the businesses that we will own is also “faced with embracing the world’s breathtakingly rapid technological advances without sacrificing the values and ethics that have so long sustained and defined the profession.” The rise of the machines has posed competition. We don’t necessarily have the precision or accuracy that machines would have to pick up imbalances and mistakes because we err towards being human. It’s not so much about balancing ledgers as it’s about balancing the left and right brains. The accounting profession, or being able to look after money, has always been about staying within the strict confines of accounting laws and standards (left brain) while being uncompromising on integrity and truthfulness (right brain).
The future will demand a new perspective on how to creatively solve problems. The future accountant knows that the future is about humans being able to learn, unlearn and relearn. In addition to that, there’s a greater deal of purpose behind the thinking coming, the order to get to the crux of problems and the true essence of the role of a custodian of money in society, not just in business.
According to the SAICA & CAW Future CA Report, “By 2025 people will still be trying to get to the truth. We are the guardians of the truth. Personal ethical leadership is the basis of the chartered accountant.”
Where we nett out
The future is going to require us to be more human than ever, about knowing that things need to be done with integrity, about searching for truth, being able to empathise and lead our thinking or working with money with more gut feel than textbooks. Our humanness has always been with us. Is with us. Will be with us.
We need to be able to turn back to it so that the future can be experienced, now, by us. But, more especially, by generations to come.
Doc: I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.
Siwelile Lawrence (née Thusi) (@Siwe_Lawrence) is a qualified South African chartered-accountant-turned-creative-strategist at M&C Saatchi Abel; she’s also a working photographer and writer. Since mid-2015, she’s been in strategic planning, working on some of South Africa’s big brands in different categories and industries in the ATL and digital spaces. Siwe contributes the monthly MarkLives column “An Accountant in Adland” — exploring where, when and how the two ‘disciplines’ overlap… and why they should!