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Christian Perrins
Head of Strategy



Who will make the ads of the future... and will it even matter?

Right now, advertising creatives around the world are raging against the dying of the light of human ingenuity.

“The machines are coming for our Yellow Pencils!” they’re screaming as they run from meeting room to meeting room, blood-drained and deranged.

Except they aren’t. 

Most surveys (like this one from Kantar) tell you that we marketers are broadly excited about how AI can help with data-crunching, concepting and production. 

The same surveys also tend to record a vague anxiety about our jobs being taken in the future, but those are usually outweighed by general enthusiasm. 

Why? Because we’re just humans. Wired with ancient cognitive biases that prioritise being safe in the immediate future, not worrying about what’s coming later. This kind of ‘hyperbolic discounting’ means our industry is ushering in a new age of machine-powered, prompt-driven marketing. Holding the door open. After you, silicon knackers!

And what I wonder is this; if we’re barely fighting for our careers as we know them now, will the next generation even notice that jobs as Art Directors, Copywriters and Creative Strategists aren’t options any more?

In a world of content researched, written, produced, personalised and trafficked by machines (increasingly for machines), what child living today is likely to dream of a career in adland?

I’m torn.

When I was a kid, ads were events we consumed unquestioningly. The Nescafé Gold Blend couple. Nicole and Papa. The Milk Tray Man.

Making ads felt glamorous and worthwhile. A way to reach millions. Moments of mass concurrent viewing weren’t confined to the Superbowl or Champions League Final. We were all sofa-bound on any given Saturday, watching the ads between The A-Team and Blind Date. 

Then, when I was a student in the early 2000’s, I watched Peter Kay ‘ave it’ in the ‘No-Nonsense’ ads for John Smiths and thought they were so funny I needed to work at TBWA. When Trevor Beattie came in to give a talk at our university he was treated like a rock star. 

Cut to 2024 and there aren’t that many ad exec role models to point to. Don Draper and Peggy Olson typified the ‘Mad Men’ era of creative brilliance contending with the emergence of data and strategy, but we’re a long way from those boozy, bigoted days, and the show is unlikely to register with most young people.

Today’s role models are tech innovators, activists, scientists and content creators. 

One in four Gen Z aspire to be an influencer. And we all know you don’t make ads, you make TikToks. Ads are for blocking.

You can’t blame them either. We’re all inspired to ‘be what we see’, and what kids mostly see are influencer posts with #ads baked in. 

They’re unlikely to be inspired by the unskippable shit bookending the videos they watch. They’re more likely to aspire to be the next Mr Beast. He’s wildly creative, and uses his influence and money to make the world a better place. He even has a biographical children’s book that teaches 4 to 10 year olds about “empathy, giving back, and the power of making a positive impact on the world.” 

That’s what they want to hear too. Gen A are pragmatic and civic minded. They want to be vets, teachers and engineers. They want to help people and make a difference. 

It’s wonderful to see a generation like that emerge. But I’m really not sure where advertising or any recognizable career in marketing fits in.


Brands dream bigger. Much bigger. Delivering experiences that quantifiably make the world a better place.

Way bigger than purpose-driven box ticking to offset the harm they do. Young people can smell that a mile off, and they’ll dig for the details. Greta Thunberg may be the poster child for this kind of relentlessness, but it’s becoming increasingly normalised in youth consumerism.

If you want to inspire the next generation to work for your marketing department or write your ads, rather than leave the machines to it, you might need to conceive of a kind of ethical attribution model that proves the holistic impact of your business on the metrics that truly matter to them.

Things like environmental impact, animal welfare, and most crucially - human wellbeing.

If we skip the debate on moral relativism, many agree there are universal values of human wellbeing that are increasingly quantifiable via big data signals. Things like your cocktail of serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin, or the level of social interaction you experience IRL on any given day.

AI incursion into every aspect of our lives is only going to increase exponentially, so it’s by no means fantastical to imagine a brand that can track its quantum of wellbeing on any given individual, its entire user base, or the planet.

In that future there might be a new creative role for today’s kids. They’ll be the human stewards of the marketing machine. The moral arbiters of the alignment problem. Guiding the new tools to deliver better lives for us all.

They’ll be less worried about driving the engine of commerce and more concerned with driving the engine of wellbeing, because that’s where the money will flow.

Their creative briefs will balance hedonic objectives (delivering pleasure and enjoyment) with eudaimonic ones (delivering meaning and purpose).

They won’t need to write skippable ads for sugary soda, or plot PR campaigns to mitigate catastrophic environmental damage, because harmful verticals will have been engineered out thanks to exponential intelligence. 

The new marketeers will be free to create messages and experiences that uplift our lives, empirically, with businesses who only get to exist because of a new level of accountability. They will, by definition, be in charge of a brand’s humanity. 

In that future, a career in marketing might not seem so worthless after all. 

Article originally published in Shots.