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December 23, 2009
Oh, Oh, Here Comes the Future

Did anyone see it? What did it look like?

In the early 80’s, a futurist group predicted that by 2000, we’d have to work a 32 hour week because with all our labor saving devices, there wouldn’t be enough work to keep all of us employed.

So we’d work a four day week. In effect, we’d share that fifth day with the other under-worked citizens.

Did that future ever arrive? If it did, I don’t remember it. Do you?

I remember the 52 hour week. And now we’re living in the “there is no end to the hours we can work in a week”.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I’m about to discuss the future. While we can be sure it’s coming. But my version of it may not.
Can you say Freelance?

I don’t think there’ll ever be a time when there are no jobs. A time when we will all Freelance. But, “the past is prologue”.

Until the Industrial Revolution, most of us had work. But we didn’t have jobs. We were Farmers. Or Butchers, Bakers, Candlestick Makers. We might have been employed as an apprentice. Or hired hands (people who didn’t own their own land).

Employers didn’t do anything more than pay you. Maybe room and board was your pay. And when there was no work, you moved on.
A real big employer might be a shipbuilder. Or a railroad. They might’ve had 100 employees.

With all the new ways of working, including cyber commuting, more of us may be Freelancers. Or in the more sophisticated, modern nomenclature, Contract Workers.

Advertising Agencies are being compensated in more intricate ways.

Until very recently, “click-throughs” became a reason for compensation. Now clients want to pay for results, not because someone pressed a button. They want to be sure what they make or do got bought before any more money goes out.

Agencies are making deals to be compensated as a partner. Not taking much up front. But a piece of the pie if the Advertising/Marketing, works.
Way back, 10 years ago, Ad Agencies had clients. Today, lots of Agencies are getting projects.

There was a time you went looking for a job. We may now go looking for work.

Do I think that jobs are obsolete? Hardly. There’ll always be a need for steady, daily people. Those who are familiar with the work, the clients, etc. But I’m not sure there will be a need for the huge number of them.

Freelancing was considered risky. Now, it might be that a job is risky. If you lose that job, your income is zero. But if you have a few clients and you lose one, well, you’re not running on empty.

Hollywood used to be made up of huge studios with actors under contract being paid like an employee. A steady paycheck whether you were in a movie or not. Then the actors became Freelancers. No contracts.

The same with Directors, Producers, Sound Engineers, Stunt-People. The whole gamut. When TV Commercials were born, there were Production Companies with Directors and their entire crew(s) on staff.

Today, almost everyone making films (videos), commercials, anything for the web, is a Freelancer.

It’s possible that the Advertising Industry is going in the same direction. For the most part, Design Studios got projects. Very seldom did they have a long term contract with clients. So studios didn’t have huge staffs.

As clients keep looking for the best idea, which is what they’ve always done, they may not be looking at their traditional resources. So Ad Agencies, like those big Hollywood Studios may have to rethink their size and structure. Instead of huge staffs, they’ll have fewer people and depend on Freelancers more.

Am I right? Who knows.

Am I working hard to discourage Advertising people?

No. I’m saying this could be one of the many possible futures we’ll live in.

If it is, then “employment” in the Advertising Industry will have a whole new look. But one that’s existed in Entertainment and even the Sports Industry for 30, 40, or even 50 years.

So we can learn from them.

Employment Agencies may become more like Hollywood Talent Agencies. Or like Sports Agencies. Instead of helping you get a job, they might represent you and help you get a gig. And if you’re good, more and more gigs. They might help you manage your career. Help you pick the right next assignment for you.
Advertising has always had stars. On staff. In the “free-agency” future, stars may have lots of offers and with them, a diversity, or a variety of streams of income. If one gets slow or dries up, no reason to panic – the others may continue to gush.

Did I just paint a dreary or a cheery picture of the future?

Like everything in life, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

Am I even close to reality? We’ll know in about five or ten years.

However it looks to you. And me, the future is inevitable. I hope we’ll all find it to be an enjoyable and prosperous one.

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Joe Grant has survived more than 35 years as a successful ad guy with five agencies and a major client position under his belt. In 1992, he started Grant Consulting Associates to help agencies improve client services, accelerate new client acquisition, and sharpen management team focus. Joe’s gift is communicating practical insight that’s simultaneously provocative and therapeutic. He’s a senior-level coach, consultant, and confidante, and considered an expert on agency/client relations. He publishes Grant’s Client Brief, and his blog gRantvertising always has something fresh to say about our business.

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