Marketing Agency Burnout is About Tech, Not Just Culture

But what about the technological reasons so many mid- to entry-level marketing agency professionals are burning out? Campaign management on major platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon is painstaking work. Marketers are left arranging and optimizing each facet of a digital campaign across several verticals and dozens of clients, exposing them to fatigue from not just overworking but also boredom spurred by the feeling that they could be doing more creative work.

To reduce burnout, the digital marketing industry needs to grapple with the daily workflows of professionals on the front lines.

Let’s review why the work of digital marketing can be so tiresome, how technology can address the problem, and what agencies and clients stand to gain from an approach to digital marketing that melds human talent and automation.

Why digital marketing leads to burnout

The pandemic catalyzed demand for digital marketing as consumer-facing businesses quickly adapted to an ecommerce-led world. As a result, marketer burnout increased, and so did attention to the issue. But anyone who has spoken to digital marketers knows the industry struggled with burnout before the pandemic. The technologies available to marketers are a big part of the reason for this long-term problem.

Typically, in an agency, there is a small number of managers, if not a single manager, who knows the ins and outs of leading platforms such as Google and Facebook as well as the particulars of the verticals the agency serves. This person ends up running around in a constantly strained effort to set up new accounts for success and adapt to changes by the major platforms.

As this more senior person struggles with bandwidth, junior professionals, who are learning on the job, also feel added pressure to display expertise beyond their pay grade. Burnout from the middle down ensues as senior managers struggle to operate at scale and junior employees are left to pick up the pieces.

What is fundamentally inefficient and exhausting in this structure is that the senior person with vertical and platform expertise cannot scale and share that knowledge. Junior people get burnt out and leave, forcing the agency to devote more time to training new talent. More senior employees spend time executing and training, not growing the business. Money gets left on the table, and burnout persists.

How technology can improve digital marketing workflows

Faced with the difficulty of scaling senior campaign manager expertise, many agencies set out to automate their approaches to the leading ad platforms, Google and Facebook. For example, senior operators might create scripts and home-grown solutions that help junior employees navigate the walled gardens.

But Google and Facebook are constantly rolling out new products and guidelines. As a result, optimizing the customized tools agencies build to automate Google and Facebook advertising becomes its own exhausting, never-ending process. An attempt to optimize becomes another burden.

To fix this problem, agencies need technology that consistently evolves along with the top platforms to ensure agency talent does not spend time optimizing software meant to optimize their workflow. Senior operators need a way to scale and share their expertise; junior employees need to be able to manage Google and Facebook campaigns at scale without working twelve-hour days and burning out.

What marketers can achieve with automation

Digital marketing does not come with a manual, and even if it did, that manual would evolve all the time. What agencies recruit talent for is not simply to put hands on a keyboard and push buttons in a pre-directed order; that’s what machines are for. Agencies hire talent to use human intelligence to analyze what’s working, suss out client needs, and apply creative solutions to deliver the highest possible return on advertising spend. That’s the differentiator that keeps clients coming back.

To that end, the solutions to agency burnout are not just cultural. Yes, setting reasonable boundaries with clients, encouraging employees to work healthy hours, and providing a safe and welcoming environment can improve retention and talent acquisition. But to improve employee morale, performance, and ultimately retention, agencies need to scrutinize workflows, eliminate drudgery, and empower their talent to spend time developing and applying creative solutions.

Agencies often worry — and understandably so — that automating more of their work will sacrifice their competitive advantage. But the opposite should be true. By allowing senior managers to scale their intelligence and equipping junior operators with that intelligence, agency talent can devote more time to the creative tasks that differentiate one agency from another. And instead of getting burned out, campaign managers can breathe a bit more, produce stronger results, and stay longer.

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