Research Outline

Marketing & Advertising Agency Trends


To identify and provide examples of major seismic trends happening in the advertising agency/marketing landscape, especially any that relate to attracting and retaining talent, learning and development, and driving growth.

Early Findings

Reduction in the Workforce

  • Data from Forrester indicates that close to 35,000 agency jobs were cut during 2020 and expects that 17,000 more will be gone in 2021.
  • On average, 11% of marketing and advertising agency staff has been laid off since March 2020.
  • "The Forrester report says the gig economy could potentially benefit from a talent exodus. The report’s authors say they anticipate at least a 5% increase in small or midsize startups that offer marketing services."

Shifting the Workforce

Automating the Workforce

  • Forrester data suggests that 11% of the agency workforce will be automated by 2023, further stating "agencies will become smaller yet smarter as machine learning and robotic processing automation help plan and buy media, create and produce content, measure and adjust marketing, develop products and experiences, manage operations, and select talent."
  • Jay Pattisall, a principal analyst at Forrester suggests that the industry is on the precipice of a massive shift. "The industry is not fully aware of the level of transformation that’s going to happen, (in) pretty much every department at agencies, ranging from creative to production."
  • "Creative is still largely a human exercise, but it’s being assisted by machines, Pattisall said, pointing to companies such as Persado, which uses artificial intelligence to help marketers craft effective copy."
  • Ari Lightman, of Carnegie Mellon University, states "even though we have computers and algorithms spinning out content, messaging, targeting different individuals and negotiating contracts, we’re always going to need people to help out in terms of understanding and assessment, engagement, negotiations."
  • Bradley Rogers, global COO for MRM, states, "Wave after wave of innovation in automation will continually change the industries’ need for talent over time."
  • "Forrester predicts the confluence and collisions of talent and technology will lead to agencies resembling software companies. They’ll offer combinations of creative and media products bundled with the services to manage them. Rapidly evolved market conditions, buyer priorities, tech trends, and new consumer behaviors will drive an overdue restoration of the agency/CMO relationship in 2021 while permanently reshaping how the industry operates."
  • Technology will act as a stop-gap of sorts in 2021, as it is predicted that "significant gaps in talent" will be augmented by tech while the "industry weathers another year of reduced marketing spend."

Culture and People Officers


The time constraints of the discovery portion of research allowed for initial review to establish viability of continued research. It is anticipated that additional examples and/or expert opinion of the above trends within the market can be provided as well as the identifying 2-3 additional trends within the industry.

Note: The provided preliminary project information mentioned the desire for identifying major seismic trends. As this terminology is subjective, the initial discovery phase focused on trends in the workforce within agencies identifying those trends which are being repeatedly discussed. It is suggested that this path be utilized for additional research as well.