Beset by budget cuts and pressure to create more with less, agencies and marketers will invest in ad creation capabilities that rely less on humans and more on technologies like “virtual influencers” and AI-generated advertising. These are among the findings in a pair of reports Forrester published today that predict major upheaval for the marketing industry in 2021.
Below, a summary of the findings that are both grim (more job cuts) and hopeful (a rise of entrepreneurialism):
Agency job losses mount
Here’s the bad news: agency layoffs will continue into 2021, with Forrester projecting that U.S. shops will shed another 17,000 positions next year following the 35,000 job cuts this year.
The upside, if there is one, is that the turnover will “spur a new wave of entrepreneurs as many establish their own business concepts to deliver agency and marketing services,” according to Forrester, which predicts a 5% increase in small or midsize startups. “At the core of their offerings will be creative problem-solving skills; unencumbered by legacy structures, they will be free to find creative solutions in a nimble, cost-effective manner,” Forrester reports.
Welcome the ‘virtual influencer’
Who needs a real human to pitch products when you can create an influencer from thin air? Forrester points to Ikea’s computer-generated model “Imma” in Japan as an example of the kinds of “virtual influencers” brands will increasingly deploy as they look to “control their messaging and go viral simultaneously.” Imma—who describes herself on Instagram as a “virtual girl” who is “interested in Japanese culture, film and art”—was used in an installation at a Tokyo store to highlight the furniture retailer’s solutions for small-space living. As The Verge describes, “Imma is a CGI model and not an actual human. But Ikea says that it created the installation using LED screens inside of the physical rooms, which were ‘curated’ by Imma, to give the appearance of Imma being in a real place.”