Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes Talks About Marketing to Marketers

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Ann Adobe 1As CMO for Adobe, Ann Lewnes is in a unique position: "a marketer marketing to marketers." But that, she says, gives her an advantage in understanding the company's target audience.

Lewnes sat down with AdExchanger at the Adobe Summit earlier this month to talk not just about the new Marketing Cloud from Adobe, but also about her work as a CMO and the challenges facing marketers today.

Adobe, she said, does use the company's marketing stack, and its Marketing Cloud platform, relying on the predictive marketing mix tool, Media Optimizer, and leveraging the Adobe Social offering to understand how social sites influence traffic to Adobe's websites.

Once customers get to the website, "We use our CQ, the content management system, which basically enables a lot of structure around the experience that we can deliver," Lewnes said. "Then we use Test and Target, my personal favorite, which enables us to do real time testing."

AdExchanger: What have been your biggest challenges as a CMO and what are your current challenges today?

ANN LEWNES: Everyone’s a digital marketer now; there’s no one who’s not a digital marketer. The whole process, the mentality, everything has to change. We made a very deliberate effort, probably three or four years ago, to move all of our money to digital. Now, about three-quarters or 75% of our budget is spent on digital. We’re able to better serve the customer. We give them better experiences; we give them more informative and relevant content because we know what works and what doesn’t work immediately.

One of the challenges that we face, as an industry, is that marketers and agencies have been too slow to make this change. The marketers and the agencies that don’t do it will suffer. I’m not speaking as an Adobe representative or someone who’s trying to sell something; I’m speaking just as a representative of change in this industry. As a profession, we’ve always gotten banged around. Everyone always thinks the marketing people don’t deliver the goods. Now we can finally do that and we have this huge opportunity.

A lot of talk lately has been about mobile, obviously. But how much of clients’ advertising is really going through mobile right now?

Not enough. Nowhere near enough. This year, tablet spending from an advertising standpoint went up. The content consumption, the purchasing, the browsing, the experience is super engaging and we haven't come up with a great model yet for advertising on a tablet. Some people are doing some good work, and it’s falling on the publishers, in many cases, to come up with the best way to advertise.

There are some interesting models—native advertising is one—and of any of the potential ways to monetize on a smartphone or a tablet, video probably has the most potential. Video is such a big driver now of the overall interest of the experience. I would put my money on video.

Real-time marketing is a huge issue right now, thanks to the Super Bowl and The Oscars. How do you look at that for Adobe and is that something you’re experimenting with or working with?

Yes, totally. First, there’s the real time iteration of everything: what’s working and what’s not working. That means I have to have more editorial people and more creative people on staff because we’re constantly changing things that we’re doing. That’s been a big change.

The other thing is, from a social perspective, web analysts and social media practitioners are literally manning the lines 24/7, but they’re pushing out a lot of content. They’re having Twitter chats, Facebook conversations, and we’re also doing paid social now, which has been delivering pretty well. And customer support used to be exclusively phone-based, but now you have to have a team of people who are literally always on customer support.

But the best thing about that is we’re hearing from people on a continuous basis what’s good, what’s bad, and we’re able to actually react. A good example for Adobe is we sneak features. If Photoshop is coming out, a couple months before we’ll sneak a new feature. We will just put the video on YouTube and people come see this video and they’ll either love it or they’ll hate it. With that feedback I can tell, okay this is something I should promote.

What do you see as the future of the role of the CMO?

We say this all the time and it sounds totally trite, but this is the best time to be in marketing. It is so unbelievable what you can do now. People talk about, "Oh, the CMO is going to buy more technology than the CIO." But that’s not the most exciting part to me. The most exciting part is seeing the reaction to what you’re doing, the ability to measure the real impact of what you’re doing, to have a seat at the table, being able to really talk to your CEO or CFO about the value that you provide to the business.

Can you talk a little bit about how Adobe works with agencies like Razorfish and Sapient, and what your relationship is like with those companies?

Razorfish and Sapient Nitro are two big partners of ours. They are using our technology and they have some technology of their own. In the case of Razorfish, they have Fluent. They have a lot of clients and big advertisers, so they have a great network for us. We have great technology for them, so it's a natural alliance.

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