This week in Amsterdam, IAB Netherlands will host its fourth edition of the marketing conference How To Make It Work. IAB CEO Wendy Pouw talked to Igor Beuker, host of the conference, about his vision on trends and technologies and about the future of digital marketing and martech. What might happen in the digital marketing ecosystem in 2020 and beyond?

The Dutch version of this interview was published by IAB Netherlands and Emerce.

Wendy: You were co-founder of IAB NL and IAB Europe back in 1997 and 22 years active for IAB. What keeps you inspired and motivated?

Igor:  IAB has always shown courage and foresight. We’ve both always believed in the power of the revolutionary and disruptive technology called the Internet. Professionalizing and growing the interactive industry might be a mission for life. Although I’m classified as an Internet veteran, I have kept an open mind and always listened to the ideas of new generations.

Wendy: What does this T-Rex expect about the near future of the digital marketing ecosystem?

On international stages, I share my foresight on trends and technologies that impact business, economy, and society. We are in the middle of Industry4.0 and it is shaking up each and every industry. Our main challenge however isn’t technology, it is our mindset and our culture.

Industry4.0 shows us a series of exponential technologies that our linear minds can hardly see or understand. Dealing with the future is about being imaginative, not about being right. I sometimes feel like the Walt Disney of marketing innovation: I’ve learned that imagination can spark inspiration, motivation, and action.

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Wendy: Your Mad Men vs. Math Men theory is notorious: Advertising may win quarters, innovation wins decades.

Igor: It’s not a scientific methodology, but science (and laws) are often 10 years behind the curve in this fast-moving world. Mad Men vs. Math Men is a theory I developed over the past 20 years, working for large global brands. As a misfit, I’m curious and courageous enough to break with the status quo.

I like to hack into these trends that I know are very important and lay the code out for everyone to see. In this case a theory and a framework that helps big brands to coin the limitless business opportunities of this 21st century.

Just like many marketing professionals, CMOs, agency CEO’s and media companies, I’m still unlearning and re-learning outdated marketing models from the past. Trends and technologies are certainly part of marketing. Our marketing industry needs to lead by example. Marketers are the special forces! Or, that’s what they should be.

iab_keynote_speaker_host_igor_beuker_advertising may win quarters, innovations wins decades

Wendy: Can you give us a few examples of how marketing will change? 

Igor: Sure. Back in the days, I learned that marketing was about Kotler’s P from Place. Today, I would not say that out loud to men like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Jack Ma, or Elon Musk. They’d probably shake their heads or laugh out loud.

Wendy: Are Bezos, Branson, Ma, and Musk the Math Men you were referring to?

Igor: Yes they are part of a ‘new’ elite group that has changed the marketing game forever. In the last 20 years, I have experienced that all disruptive innovations (the ones that are taking over entire industries in less than a decade) are coming from Big Tech, outsiders, or outliers. Never from the people within that specific industry!


The Mad Men generation are today still trying to apply old marketing systems to this new era, it will not work! I’ve heard too often: This is how we’ve been doing it for the last 20 years! Now that’s the most killing phrase for innovation I’ve ever heard.

Big brands that solely rely on advertising, R&D, consultants, and backward-looking market research can no longer compete with the trend-driven, opportunity-seizing innovation culture of the Math Men. Marketing used to be an art, now it’s a science too.

I’ve seen these new entrants demolish too many big brands and incumbents. These new players are agile, AI-powered marketing innovation superstars. They are racing at a massive pace, becoming the new benchmark or business case. Industry4.0 is shaking up the world in ways that is unprecedented in the history of our planet!

My sense of urgency is laudatory: If you don’t move now, you might be a dead man walking in less than a decade.

Experts and HBR have predicted that 40% of traditional businesses might crumble or fall.


Wendy: Can Mad Men still compete with the Math Men? Which marketing tips do you have for the Mad Men?

With the right sense of urgency, mindset, and DNA, impossible is nothing. I was a Mad Men 25 years ago and I’ve lived the transformation. Or take a look at Sir Martin Sorrell (ex WPP). He started S4 at age 73, and he acquired Media Monks and other players. Age is just a number or a lousy excuse. This is a mindset game!

The first tip for Mad Men? Digital transformation is key, but I also see a lot of misperceptions about DT. It’s digital-first, not digital only. Consumers want relevant personalized messaging in the real world as well. Data-driven fuels customer-centricity, and we all need to be as smart and relevant as Zappos or Amazon.

We need to know consumers better than they know themselves, offer them tailored and personalized services, and move from advertising to true attention. Make the individual important, because modern customers are no longer king, they are dictators! They will swipe brands out of their lives in a nano-second if their digital presence sucks.

Tip 2? The speed (timing) of innovation is vital to increasing competitiveness and acceleration. Industry4.0 means Darwin’s Evolution Theory on steroids. Digital Darwinism is now a Revolution theory this time: adapt fast or die another day.

Tip 3? HR needs to claim its fame now. The winners of the future are able to find and attract the talent for Industry4.0. People who master IoT, AI, Data, Voicetech, Adtech, and Martech. Let’s call them digital natives and screenagers.

Big brands need digital leadership and cyberpunks at the top, and throughout their whole organization. The Silverback Gorilla generation needs to empower young digital talent. Not shut them up.

Tip 4? Modern marketing is also about having new business model muscle. Coining the limitless business trends of the 21st century is not a tech race, it’s about re-engineering our existing business models and having the foresight and guts to claim the future.

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Wendy: What other big challenges do you see for marketing, media, advertising, and PR?

Igor: Everything in our lives will be smart in the coming 2 decades. From apps to digital assistants, from global brains to AI-powered marketing. Software is already (ch)eating the world as we know it and this was only the warming up. We’ll switch to smart circular cities, robots, and we’ll see a new relationship between man and machine.

Robots, automation, and AI might take over 30% of our jobs (white-collar & blue-collar) in the coming 2 decades. However, our human skills, like social, intellectual, and emotional skills, will keep us ahead of automation. We need to work with machines, not compete with them.

Social media will move beyond Facebook and Insta, and take us beyond screens. AR, VR, Mixed Reality will lure us into new experiences and virtual worlds. The Games and eSports industries are already revealing us the next levels of social experiences and digital entertainment.

Social media offer brands that generously listen and share amazing ways to cultivate sympathy and loyalty. Challenge for CMOs is to use new technology to add new value – not just to interrupt people in new ways.

Brands with a data-driven and customer-centric culture make faster, better, and ‘more informed’ strategic decisions. Data have an important story to tell…you just need to give them a voice. Take Amazon for example. It’s wildly innovative, persistently disruptive and laser-focused on its customers. Technology can lift customer-centricity and relevant personalization to the next levels.

Who can see the future can create it. That’s why imagination is key. I often invite the C-level suite to watch Hollywood sci-fi movies like Minority Report, Ex Machina, and Ready Player One.

And I would love to hear your trends and foresight.

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About the Author

In the spotlights, Igor Beuker is a top marketing innovation keynote speaker and futurist known for his foresight on trends and technologies that impact business, economy, and society. Behind the scenes, a serial entrepreneur with 5 exits and an angel investor in 24 social startups. Board member at next-level media firms, changemaker at Rolling Stone Culture Council, Hollywood sci-fi think tank pioneer, award-winning marketing strategist for Amazon, L’Oréal, Nike, and a seer for Fortune 500s, cities, and countries.

In the spotlights, Igor Beuker is a professional public speaker and futurist known for his foresight on trends and technologies that impact business, economy, and society. Behind the scenes, a social entrepreneur with 5 exits and angel investments in 24 social startups, an award-winning marketing strategist for brands like Amazon, L’Oréal, Nike, and Unilever, and a seer for Fortune 500s, organizations, foundations, and governments.