Acquire as many skills as you can before all the ad empires crash and burn
A view from Russell Davies

Acquire as many skills as you can before all the ad empires crash and burn

I was on a stage several years ago, at yet another conference about advertising and technology, trying to convince yet another bunch of advertising people...

These conferences are always structured around what "the industry" should do or what "businesses" should do. My experience suggests that most businesses are pathologically incapable of meaningful change, so there’s just no point in talking to them. So, now, when I do these things, I try to talk to the individuals about their careers.

And, in the past few years, as I’ve bumped up against a bunch of software and web start-ups, I’ve also realised that I’m mostly useless to them too. If you’ve got a global brand and hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, I have the training and experience to give you decent advice. But if you’re two coders and a designer, most ad people aren’t much help to you. We might wibble on about focus and brand values, but we can’t normally do anything really practically useful.

So, right now, when the marketing headlines are dominated by stories of scale and vastness, of huge advertising businesses wheeling and turning like unwieldy spacecraft, it’s a good time to consider the skills you should acquire for when those spacecraft crash into each other and burn up in the atmosphere of reality. The best places to turn to for inspiration are a couple of posts on Medium.com and GeekWire.com about the "full-stack marketer" – a bit of Googling will get you there. 

It may be time to plan for an alternative future – one that’s less dependent on global mega-businesses

The term is a spin-off from the idea of the "full-stack developer" – someone who can do everything you need to get a site or an app running, from architecture to databases, back-end and front-end, CSS, HTML etc.

The full-stack marketer is someone it would make sense to have as the third person in your start-up. Someone who can run some user experience research, alter the artwork for the sales convention, do some SEO, negotiate some coverage in a newspaper, rewrite the T&Cs for China, design a perimeter board and construct a decent e-mail marketing campaign.

Can you do all of those things? I can’t; it’s probably too late for me. But, as the giant ad empires clash above our heads, it may be time to plan for an alternative future – one that’s less dependent on global mega-businesses and more on myriads of little start-ups. That will mean learning the full stack. Good luck! I’m off on my hols.

Russell Davies is a creative director at Government Digital Service
@undermanager

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