Publicis Career Vet Katie Ford Tries Out The Tech Side At Amobee

Media agency vet Katie Ford was looking for a change.

Over 23 years at Publicis Groupe, her passion for technology and data in a changing marketing environment had grown. So she left her role as President and Managing Director of Spark Foundry to become marketing solutions provider Amobee’s first ever chief client officer, the company announced on Wednesday.

At Amobee, Ford will be responsible for “anything that touches the customer and client,” she told AdExchanger.

“The chief client officer is about listening,” she said. “I’m listening to the needs of the employees, clients and agencies and crafting a plan around that.”

Ford has been a longtime partner of Amobee. While at Publicis, she began working seven years ago with social analytics company Kontera, which Amobee acquired in 2014. The relationship grew from there.

“I white labeled [Kontera’s] tech,” Ford said. “Amobee had a broader communications stack, and we did amazing things for P&G and Coca-Cola. We grew with them as their stack evolved.”

At Amobee, Ford will oversee development, data and channel partnerships, global agency relationships and strategic solutions.

She spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Why did Amobee need a chief client officer?

KATIE FORD: To be successful, it’s all about the client. Having perspective from someone from the agency side is really unique. Complementing the engineers, technologists, data scientists and sales organization with someone who understands the marketer’s needs from the agency perspective is important.

Who are Amobee’s clients? How do you work with them? 

Amobee works with marketers and agencies. From my perspective as a client, the key thing they do is [figure out] what you’re trying to solve in the digital space in terms of overall business goals.

A key intrigue for me is their Brand Intelligence solution, which scans the digital ecosystem for sentiment. I can find anything from how a company is being mentioned to the key moments to intercede and compliment, from an insight basis to execution. A lot of companies do one of those things, but these guys do it across all contact points.

You were at Publicis Group for 23 years. Why did you leave?

I had an exceptional journey, but I had this passion to make a pivot. I’m intrigued by the tech side and I’m kind of a geek on the data side. I’ve had a very strong relationship with Amobee. I believe in the product and the people. There was this fire in my belly about where they’re going and I’m excited to be a part of that journey.

Where is Amobee going? 

From my vantage point, it’s omnichannel solutions across all touch points. Amobee provides solutions across every contact, API and facet of digital. It’s not a siloed approach. And it’s really about understanding what’s going on out there before the marketers do.

Early on, a lot of it was social. They grew their data partnerships across every API. They evolved across all contact points. They have a self-service solution.

How will Amobee’s acquisition of Turn factor into that journey? 

With Turn, we’re able to offer a self-serve solution. It’s an evolution of the marketing platform and a big component of the business moving forward.

How will the skills you learned as a media agency executive help you in this role? 

Perspective. I oversee clients and understand their challenges and opportunities. What keeps them up at night? What are they wondering? How are they trying to drive the business? It’s really understanding what are they trying to achieve. My greatest passion on the agency side was providing solutions.

What do you hope you achieve at Amobee?  

To help clients solve their business challenges.

The thing I’m really excited about that I haven’t had the exposure to is sitting in a room with engineers and saying, “How can we create this?” On the agency side, you understand what clients need, and then you have to source that. I get to sit with the product team and craft something.

From your experience, do agencies need to be closer to tech?

I think each agency would have a different answer. Some small to mid-size [agencies] would say they don’t have the resources. Others buy technology. But the convergence of technology, data and creativity is blurred. Everyone has to be able to understand it. Whether they build it themselves or borrow is an individual choice.

Publicis made some acquisitions. Sapient builds a lot of tech. But I didn’t sit with the engineers on a day-to-day basis. It depends on what your client situation is and what their needs are.

This interview has been edited.

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