The ‘Superhero CMO’ as defined by ad:tech NY

This month's ad:tech NY conference hosted a number of interesting keynotes, including this one on the new 'superhero CMO.'

This month’s ad:tech NY conference hosted a number of interesting keynotes, including this one on the new ‘superhero CMO.’

Our blog this week is guest written by Helena Podgorniak—our traffic manager and assistant account executive—who attended the ad:tech New York show a few weeks back. We asked Helena to report on the most compelling keynote from that show. Helena, take it away…

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending ad:tech New York. It has been a while since my last conference, so naturally, I dove head first into the aisles of exhibitions and hours of keynotes. I met great people and learned about many new and exciting technologies. I did not expect anything less.

But what kept me up afterwards was what I had heard at one of the keynotes, titled “The Modern CMO and the Evolution of Agency Relevancy.” In it, Alan Cohen, co-founder of Giant Spoon, and John Nardone, EVP of Rocket Fuel, discussed the roles of a modern CMO in a market where technology and innovation are the forces driving more and more communications planning.

Nardone brought up two co-dependent overarching movements shaping today’s advertising landscape. On the one hand, we have demanding budgets and timelines. The good old days where there was one agency “to deal with,” which ran the show, are over. Snap back to 2014 and, in the interest of savings, companies have their own in-house team and enlist the help of five to 15 “specialty” agencies. Things are complicated.

Then on the other hand, we have the tornado known as ground-breaking innovations in marketing technology. It is a mouthful. And for CMOs and agencies alike, it’s a roller coaster where the whole ride you zoom down a steep and rocky mountain of advancements in digital targeting, ever-changing social media and upgrades to SEO strategies, to name just a few.

Emerging from the ashes of these two movements are three new agency models, and a superhero CMO. Let’s tackle the agencies first:

  1. The media agency – Specialized digital agencies are popping up left and right, and by now are everywhere. By providing only one service—be it mobile, targeting, social or analytics—it is easier to stay current, relevant and provide the best service in a given field.
  2. The creative agency – While the digital media folks stay current on the latest trends, somebody has to provide the creative. The media and creative agencies work in tandem to meet daily client needs.
  3. The “mother ship” agency – While the media company provides the strategy and the creative agency the, well… creative, somebody needs to furnish the big idea. That’s where the mother ship agency comes in. It generates the message that the media and creative agencies carry out.

“Create marketing so good that the consumer mistakes it for service.” – John Nardone, EVP & General Manager, Rocket Fuel

That is the mantra of the superhero CMO. The sophistication of how we connect with consumers is far beyond what anybody could have predicted 10-20 years ago. CMOs need to know more these days, be chief advisors on technology and pay attention to fragmentation affecting media channels and consumers’ attention. With a more complex marketing environment, CMOs need to understand data and analytics. And not only must they be masters of all these disciplines, but they must also be responsible for the economic outcomes of their efforts.

Balancing on a knife-edge: performance vs. customer experience

As per Nardone, the superhero CMO needs to focus on two main aspects of his/her job:

  1. Portfolio manager – Use the vast pool of media touch points as ways of connecting to the customer. Lay down bets for long-term and short-term pay-offs.
  2. Change/process manager – Don’t let the annual budget get in the way of advancements in technology. Break out of the calendar and old infrastructure.

But above all, being a modern CMO is bigger than just advertising. It’s being a jack-of-all-trades: Part CTO, part COO, connected to sales lines. It’s about creating the customer experience, and reaching the individual in a programmatic world. It’s about the services you can deliver.

Go out there, brave CMO! Be the superhero your company needs, and the superhero they deserve.

– Helena Podgorniak is the traffic manager and assistant account executive for CI-Group

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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