The 2019 Future of Strategy report is out now. Here, WARC's VP Content, David Tiltman, pulls out three key ideas.

WARC’s annual Future of Strategy report is out – full of data and insight into the changing role of the strategist. It’s one of my favourite pieces of content in our annual calendar, as it speaks directly to some of our core users and contributors. Along with the Future of Strategy debate we hold every year in Cannes (which if you haven’t seen yet, you really should), it helps us keep track of trends in strategy and the changing demands of the role.

The report is packed with information based on feedback from more than 800 planners worldwide and essays by 10 of the world’s best. To whet your appetite, here are three little nuggets that stood out to me.

1. It’s strategists, not planners

We’ve always used the terms ‘planning’ and ‘strategy’ interchangeably, as many in the industry do. There are nuances about both terms, of course, but generally they play the same role within an agency. This year, we thought we’d find out how our respondents thought of themselves. And the results are clear – these days ‘strategist’ is the lead term, preferred by 67% in the survey. Planner is preferred by 28%. So, from a naming point of view if nothing else, the future of strategy is, well, strategy.

2. Agencies are going to lose a lot of talent

The jaw-dropping piece of data in this year’s report came when we asked the world’s strategists where they expected their next job to be. Bear in mind the overwhelming majority of respondents work in an agency of some kind. Surprisingly (to me, at any rate), just 37% expect their next role to be in an agency. Nearly two-thirds of respondents see their immediate future outside the agency environment, with consultancies the number one alternative choice (24%). Surely that’s a warning sign to agencies that a large pool of talent is at risk.

3. Quick appears to be better than good

The list of issues facing agency-side strategists won’t be too surprising: they feel undervalued, they have to straddle both upstream and downstream work, and their efforts are not charged for properly.

Last year’s survey revealed that strategists felt they were spending too much time at their desks and not enough in the real world. That theme came through again – 76% agreed with that statement this year, and 75% agreed with the statement that the focus is on speed of execution rather than quality of execution.

Sure, everyone is time-pressed today. But the reason, for me, that this is such an issue is that many respondents told us that the value in working with agencies (as opposed to consultancies) remains their connection to culture and consumers. If the world’s strategists are chained to their desks (and their decks), can agencies really claim to have their finger on the pulse?

Future of Strategy 2019

WARC subscribers can read the full report here.

Non-subscribers can access a sample here.