Let's face it: the world of marketing is changing at a breakneck pace. A marketing technique works very well in 2017, but by 2018 an entirely new playbook is in order. One year you're looking to get your brand involved with celeb influencers the next year you're focused on micro influencers instead. All of this change makes it beyond critical to know what's coming next. So what exactly do today's marketers believe will be most impactful tomorrow? That's the question Provoke Insights, a brand strategy and market research firm, was looking to answer when it decided to study  advertising agencies and in-house marketers.

Selfishly, this was a study I was very interested in seeing the results of, since I have often noticed that marketers and advertisers help dictate which trends will win out in the market. Advertising agencies, in particular, tend to adopt new technologies before marketers do, since solution providers tend to reach out to advertisers to sell them on innovation.

The Provoke Insights study surveyed 736 advertising and marketing professionals. A majority (587) of these professionals consisted of in-house marketers at companies and brands with at least 25 employees. In order to participate in the study, these in-house marketers had to possess an advertising budget and have full or shared decision-making authority over the ad budget, marketing vendor selection, or marketing initiatives.

Those who worked at an advertising agency represented 149 of those surveyed; participants worked across advertising agency management, such as account management, analytics, creative, media buying/planning, strategy, and web development.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the study:

#1 Content marketing has staying power.

In terms of their learning goals, content marketing, followed by AI and virtual reality/augmented reality, are the leading areas that both groups want to hone their skills in. 45 percent of advertisers are interested in learning more about content marketing, with 48 percent of marketers feeling similarly. 35 percent of advertisers and 39 percent of marketers identified AI as an area they are looking to learn more about in the next year. VR/AR is a learning goal for 32 percent of advertisers and 40 percent of marketers.

Compared to advertisers, in-house marketers are more interested in studying VR/AR, audio tech and geolocation (40, 29, and 28 percent, respectively)

Another observation in my experience listening to and advising brands: VR and AR were counted as one combined option in this year's study, but with AR finding more mainstream adoption than VR, I can see those technologies being unbundled in future years of this study.

#2: When it comes to implementing new technologies, ad agencies are innovators.

When Provoke Insights asked advertisers and in-house marketers if their companies had implemented any of the following technologies, the answers were revelatory. Advertisers are ahead of the curve with implementing new technology, and are more likely to have experience using geolocation, native advertising, and AI. There was a sizable difference in adoption rates. Geolocation is being employed by 56 percent of advertisers, but just 41 percent of in-house marketers. Native advertising is another area in which the advertisers have a significant lead: 53 percent to 40 percent.   

"When it comes to new technologies such as artificial intelligence, ad agencies are investing in innovation in order to get ahead of trends," says Carly Fink, Provoke Insights' principal and head of strategy and research. "Agencies that are more progressive retain their competitive edge and are better equipped to help their clients."

Another useful bit of information: Almost half of in-house marketers are already employing audio & voice technology (45 percent), compared to just 37 percent of advertisers.

#3: Marketers are following agencies.

Now that we know what advertisers and marketers are already adept at, what do they hope to become more familiar with over the next 12 months? Personally, this is the part that was most interesting to me. Provoke's research uncovered that marketers typically plan to follow advertisers' innovative initiatives. Content marketing, geolocation, VR, wearable tech, and AI are all on marketers' to-do lists. 53 percent of marketers who haven't already implemented AI in some fashion plan to do so in the next 12 months.

#4: Some people deserve to be fired.

When asked about their 2018 learning goals, 7 percent of advertisers and 10 percent of marketers responded that they were "not looking to learn more about marketing." While a small number, this is nevertheless shocking. We live in a highly disruptive media environment, and if you don't think it's important to keep challenging yourself, you probably shouldn't be working in marketing or advertising. Sorry.

Statistical differences between subgroups were tested at a 90 percent confidence level and are indicated by capital letters in the analysis. Margin of error is +/- 3 percent.

Are the results of Provoke's study surprising to you? Is your company staying ahead of the marketing curve?