Data: Still An Albatross For CMOs?

EconomistData, to the marketing organization, is like a vitamin – good for your overall health, but sometimes an afterthought (or you forget to take it entirely).

That was a core theme at The Economist’s Big Rethink conference in New York City Thursday, where marketers gathered for a day of discussion at the Time Warner Center.

The belief in and practical application of data in the marketing organization varied greatly by vertical. Digital natives – companies like Vevo, Pandora and Dropbox – unsurprisingly embraced data-centric principles.

“Programmatic is something that has come in like a tidal wave and it’s completely changed marketing,” said Danielle Lee, VP of commercial marketing at Vevo. “We’re a premium video platform, so when we’re recruiting talent, we look for someone who can blend art and science, [so] you don’t just get a one-trick pony.”

However, flip the coin to financial services and the tone was decidedly less assured.

The Economist’s Matthew Bishop asked Goldman Sachs whether the brand more deeply evaluated its messaging strategies following the “reputationally challenging” time period that was the financial crash of 2008.

“Are we having the data discussion now?” said Amanda Rubin, global head of brand and content strategy, which she described, with a healthy dose of sarcasm, as “the bane of my existence since … ever.”

Despite this reservation and the fact that compliance concerns keep the brand from social marketing channels like Facebook, Rubin acknowledged that the company embraces engagement metrics, measuring factors like time spent with content like video and infographics rather than counting clicks.

It’s also evaluating native sponsorships in premium pubs, a move Rubin said helps the brand reach the premium, and contextually relevant audiences it wants to connect with.

Likewise, Matt Van Dalsem, director of global media planning for investment giant BlackRock, said contextual targeting is key because the financial firm wants to ensure its content ends up in brand-safe locales.

“Our digital mix has gone from 20% to 70% of our overall mix and we’re dipping our toes in programmatic,” Van Dalsem said, adding that his agency is pushing them to try the media-buying method more. “Everyone says, ‘Follow your audience,’ but if we follow our audience of young males wherever they go, it can be scary. A lot of the content they read is not [professional] and we want to maintain brand control.”

When asked whether the National Basketball Association had invested more in programmatic media, CMO Pamela El said that while the NBA “is very comfortable with behavioral targeting, there is still this fear [by brands] that if you go through these large pipes, you may end up in places you didn’t plan to be.”

However, she added that “our customers, our prospects, fans, are in control, and we should reach them where they want to be.”

In preparation, many of the marketers in attendance tipped their hat to bringing on more data- and analytically savvy employees within their respective companies.

“I tell young marketers to learn data science not within 10 years, but within 12 months,” said Marc Mathieu, SVP of marketing for Unilever. “Business intelligence will change how we do marketing.” Equally important, he added, “is knowing how to translate that data into a human-focused narrative and contextualizing it.”

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1 Comment

  1. The importance of data and understanding the right signals will continue to increase with more programmatic buying. The companies that can exploit the intelligence within the data, not just first party data but also third party data, will have a competitive advantage. These companies will be smarter about buying inventory because they will know who is really important, the value of an impression, and how best to message the consumer — resulting in better ROIs.