insights from the future of work in marketing & advertising

June 23, 2021

This is the second annual edition of The Rosie Report and our crystal ball says it may be one of the most important we will ever publish. Of the many lessons, this past year has taught us what’s possible when our work culture is one of collective compassion.


This is a moment like we may never have again to seize a future of work that is
flexible, inclusive, and wholly human.

Everyone is awake
but not everyone is brave.


– Kat Gordon, The 3% Movement

People still worked. In fact, they worked harder. Innovation, creativity, and collaboration still happened. Actually it happened more. And we did it all through trauma. All the principles, policies and practices that held up the old work paradigm no longer hold up. And right on the heels of massive job losses, we find ourselves in the hottest hunt for talent anyone can recall. Employers wrote the old rule book for work. Now we’re in a whole new kind of talent market.

The pandemic has shaken out of the trees the legacy systems that really didn’t add a tremendous amount of value.


– Frida Polli, Pymetrics

everything and nothing has changed

In the 2020 Rosie Report we wrote about the great opportunity to change everything about work as we know it. To achieve elusive agility, productivity, wellness, and inclusion through the embrace of a new work paradigm.

Now on the other side of a humbling year, there is no denying what we have all seen, lived, and shared. And yet the work to change work is still before us.

Corporate goals of flexibility, agility, and digital transformation have given way to … corporate goals of flexibility, agility and digital transformation. (Now also dubbed resilience.) Whether we are ready or not, remote and distributed work is here to stay. But what was once opportunistic is now a matter of survival.

Marketers continue to opt out of full-time employment in a steady and increasing stream. But even with mass layoffs and collective comfort with remote work, outdated opinions and inertia still hold, locked in place by HR objectives that set an FTE-focused hierarchy based on retention, loyalty, and tenure metrics.

The model of the future is a layered workforce – core FTEs, long-term flex, project-based, and gig workers all intentionally designed into the organization – creating elasticity for the business and viable stability for workers of every status.

Our DEI intentions may be good (maybe), but our progress? Not so much.

The truth is, placing full-time talent – especially in a hot market – takes time. The hard truth is, the populations that have been most underserved by the existing work paradigm aren’t going to run back to it just because we want them to. Real inclusion can only be achieved in adopting new work modes – the modes that truly serve the people our industry has been failing.

Racial minorities are less impressed (63%).
And still only 55% say a
diverse org is a must have.

talent in

full flex

While organizations lag, the talent is already in a full sprint toward the future. Awakened from the American Dream and realizing just how much of it was contrived – and only for a select few.

There is a new and bold belief that we are all worthy of health, wealth, happiness, and equal treatment. And that work doesn’t have to be what it has always been.


There’s been a recognition for a lot of people that the system actually failed them.


– Lauren Thermos, Cut The Crap

*Racial minorities (65%) may not be as well supported as their white colleagues (75%).

Teams left “unsupervised” were as valuable as ever, proving both their competence and conscientiousness.

Pulled by the talent, we are entering the age of the autonomous worker – for all worker classifications. People now know that desirable outcomes can be achieved in absence of artificially imposed controls, and are more certain than ever that employment should not equate to time ownership nor a fixed prioritization of time and energy.

The question about returning to the office is burning, but beneath the “hybrid” drum we hear the talent saying that the answer really isn’t about where we work so much as what they’ve earned. When asked about place of work going forward, the overwhelming preference for marketers is about autonomy and trust. Essentially, the most desired rule is to not have the rules dictated by the institution.

Amidst a persisting and exacerbated burn-out epidemic, this theme of choice is a strong vibration. Choice of place is overwhelmingly the strongest, but the desire for choice of time and type of work is not insignificant.

The suggestion that work is less likely to fray us if it isn’t forced makes intuitive sense. And now marketers are armed and brave enough to make it a deciding factor in their next career choices.

solo careers

Even isolating those who joined our community in the first half of 2020, this number is only slightly lower at 30%. With marketplaces making the independent path more viable, new tech and tools making the administration easier, and communities making the road less lonely, marketers are now electively beginning their careers and ending their careers as soloists. This talent will only be available to employers that adopt a flexible workforce layer.


Every full-time job I’ve had started out as a freelance gig – and every time I regret signing on as a ‘real employee.’


– Chris Corum, Creative Director

portfolio careers

This skews heavily toward freelancers but still 25% of brand and agency employees report portfolio work. For many this is an income strategy. But more interestingly is the number of marketers identifying it as an antidote to burnout because it allows different “muscles” to flex, making its normalization a potential mental health strategy for employers that are open-minded enough to openly support professional pursuits beyond their own business.

I needed an outlet away from the computer for hands on work.


Krystal Profitt, Digital Strategist & Home Organization Entrepreneur

non-linear careers

Marketers are increasingly adopting the philosophy that a successful career does not need to move from the bottom to the top rung of a straight ladder. They are pausing and pulsing careers, mapping work to life seasons, and embracing the idea that growth and mastery are really quite distinct from “rising through the ranks.” Employers that understand what lifestyle needs their work experience serves will attract talent in their optimal season.


Right now I’m pursuing a career where I can work with people around the world on short-term projects.


– Jennifer Vasquez, Project Manager

Talent will be attracted to how they’re treated and the opportunity of what they can work on.

– Senta Slingerland, Invisible Creatives

Pre-pandemic, finding purposeful work and passion promised to heal our work wounds. Now the awakening to just how much work was taking away from us, and a collective grappling with the question “what’s it all for?” has us racing toward something else.

For some consciously and for others subconsciously, what’s been exposed is that humanity is perhaps the more important secret ingredient to work-life fulfillment, and “anti-establishment” may no longer be such a radical stance.

Our network growth is perhaps expected evidence of the trends and the times, but the ways in which it is growing point to a significantly shifting industry landscape. The appeal of independence is spreading beyond the creative and the technical. 

The newly independent and freelance curious are hailing from the big victors of the past decade. The talent that knows how to do the most in-demand work is showing signs of being done with the demands. Alongside, our project growth shows that some employers are already hip to the shift.


The one where we brought in an entire team of Black creators to launch a program entirely for Black creators.

The one where we curated a top shelf team to launch a new product to a new market in a whole new way.

The one where we supported a wellness brand through busy season with a healthy serving of diverse talent.

The new work experience will embrace a radical trust framework offering flexibility and autonomy blended with accountability.

– Fernando Hernandez, The Coca-Cola Company

the future as we know it

The future of work is not incrementally different, it is fundamentally different. And it takes letting go. Liberating people to work in the way they work best. Burying relics like resumes and linear performance evaluations in favor of more modern and inclusive tools. And inverting our mental model of work and life.

How to fit their work into the lives of whole humans is the question successful employers will answer.

We use a 4Ps framework to center the people for every role and opportunity, surfacing talent that would never have made it through a traditional screening bot, yet consistently deliver magic for our clients. The impact on both people and brands when we ensure the experience of work centers humans is profound.

There is room for everyone in the future of work if we make it.

Now is the time to be brave.


While influenced in part by privilege and systemic bias, work experience and especially acquired knowledge and skills factor into fit.


Personality types, natural tendencies, EQ and other inherent strengths are indicators of the likelihood to succeed – even in a new type of work.


Having heart for the work is one of the greatest indicators of positive outcomes. We ask all of our Rosies, “What lights you up?”


In a landscape of evolving working models, how people work – communication frequency, time zones, management preferences – is a crucial matchpoint.


It’s not the future of work unless we are all there.


-Stephanie Nadi Olson, Founder, We Are Rosie


we are rosie

We Are Rosie is a flexible talent marketplace for the modern advertising and marketing world. A thriving community of 7,000+ diverse and highly-skilled independent marketers, they help companies like Bumble, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft max their agility, resilience, inclusion, and creativity by providing curated, on-demand marketing talent.

cred & gratitude

We would like to recognize everyone across our community and beyond who contributed to this edition of The Rosie Report.

Heartfelt gratitude to: The 3% Movement, 600 & Rising, The Coca-Cola Company, Creative Spirit US, Cut The Crap, Diageo, Do The Werq, Facebook, Invisible Creatives,,  Pymetrics, Shanty Town Design, WW

With special recognition to: Asha Atkins, Bennett Bennett, Alexis Blackwell, Tan Brown, Julia Chesky, Chris Corum, Dominique Dajer, Katherine Fairbanks, Elayne Fluker, Kate Galecki, Kat Gordon, Fernando Hernandez, Kenya Ivy, Susan Jenks, Juan de Jesus, Marie Lamonica, Flavia MacMenamin, Summer McFarlane, Kelsey Merkel, Sam Nardelli,  Danielle Nitido, Graham Nolan, Frida Polli, Krystal Profitt, Sara Robinson, Laurel Rossi, Hadley Schafer, Elizabeth Seigerman, Senta Slingerland, Walton Smith, Willem Suyderhoud, Lauren Thermos, Kelsey Van Horn, Jennifer Vasquez, Holly Wasson, Arthur Woods

note from the author

Much of this report was written from a wicker chair in the morning hours in the desert, on paper, with a pen – some of it during weekends. It was peaceful, my creativity was flowing, the kids were in view. I was relaxed, productive, happy and grateful.

-Jessie Kernan, We Are Rosie