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BACK TO THE FUTURE

The media industry needs to re-examine its talent acquisition strategy if it is to move forward, writes Group M’s Filip Jabbour

Filip Jabbour, CEO of Group M MENA

Our industry is going through evolutionary change at an unprecedented pace, driven by constant technological innovation. As a result, unless we develop relevant expertise that is diverse enough, technical enough, consumer-centric enough and business savvy enough, I cannot say enough how fast we could make some of our products and services that much more reactionary, transactional and, dare I say, redundant.

Ironically, although we are in the communication business, we don’t always do a great job in communicating how attractive the breadth of options are that our dynamic advertising holding groups can off er to nourish a budding career – not as well, anyway, as some related industries in marketing, data and tech do.
So, is there a secret source of new relevant talent that we need to tap into? Or a new set of skillsets that we need to integrate into our profile mix? Maybe. But the question is not where we find them, but how to motivate
and allow their creative instincts to help shape the future and build their own legacy. Because they are everywhere: our kids at home, students in schools and universities, and talent within our office walls.
I can spend time going through suggested training modules, improved work-life balances, agile working conditions and diversity initiatives, but I only have a limited space to write in. Which is not so different from reality, really. We live in a world where news is shared 140 characters at a time. If you can’t put your idea in a tweet, you ain’t got one.
Yes, we do need more experience designers, engineers, data scientists, mathematicians, etc.
Yes, we do need to look for digital natives – who are in their prime shopping years, by the way – within key educational institutions, and diverse talent from multiple industries.
But while we invest in the latest new technology, from addressable TV to artificial intelligence, we have to be
able to support our people to adapt and evolve at pace alongside these business changes.

We ultimately need more genuinely interesting, bright characters. Characters who can speak the modelling language of Moneyball but can still inspire the creativity of Mad Men.
Technologies fail when people focus on the gimmicks of their application and lose track of the human needs they were meant to serve. And sometimes marketers have lost the forest for the trees, focusing too much on creating products for narrow demographic segments rather than satisfying human needs. We need to identify this hybrid influx of the next talent breed that realises the human touch still matters, creative disruption is necessary and that any data application is as good as the brains behind it. Data scientists are scarce. Those who understand both technology and marketing are scarcer still.
So, for all of you who are looking to join our industry, being good at maths or knowing how to design programming code alone is a great first step. But there is also more to it. Ultimately, all media is an extension
of the human sense and every platform is an extension of a human desire: vanity, memory, curiosity, social relevance (I will let you pick the appropriate match). We are not simply in the media planning and buying business, but rather in the consumer creation business. So, if you have an inventive and innovative flare and happen to work comfortably with numbers, this exciting field is definitely for you.

As for the rest of us who have made a career in media, well all is not lost for us just yet. We just have to be
courageous and not be afraid to reinvent ourselves. Remember Back to the Future II? How wrong did
Spielberg predict the future of 2015? Flying cars and hoverboards? But I will tell you what: he wasn’t far off in
Minority Report with touch screens, addressable advertising, and predictive modelling.
It takes courage, and sometimes a leap of faith. What is important is that you realise that you need to be the
best version of yourself. Jordan Peterson’s fourth rule of life is: “Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today.” We have each carved a path with unique experiences and very diverse skillsets. We now have to expand on that and navigate an ever-changing tech-based landscape,
which is not necessarily meant to automate processes at the expense of human involvement but rather introduce new opportunities to drive our media industry back to the future.

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