CMO/CIO Cross-Fire: Brands Talk Agencies And Ad Tech During Advertising Week

CMOClearly Criteo is feeling no pressure to "go quiet" following its-F-1 filing last week. President Greg Coleman appeared at Advertising Week yesterday for a rapid-fire session with marketers.

At the outset of the panel discussion, it was made clear “there won’t be any questions [taken] about Criteo going public.” Coleman was accompanied onstage at the Liberty Theater by Priceline CIO Mike Diliberto and CMO Brett Keller.

Also sharing the stage were Milton Pappas, president of ecommerce, and Michael Hines, VP of ecommerce technology, at The Jones Group, owner of brand names like Dockers, Nine West and Easy Spirit, which could be nearing a company buyout this week, some sources say.

“Over the last few years, those of us on the media side at emerging technology companies would create communication with people on the marketing side,” Coleman said. “Starting about three to four years ago … our marketing person would say, ‘I have to talk to our head of technology because I’m not sure if we can implement that.’ Here, in 2013, living in the ad-tech world, the need to understand what’s on the mind of the head of technology is as important as understanding what’s on the mind of the CMO.”

Then the discussion was off and running. Here’s what transpired, in excerpts:

How the decision-making process around technology has changed in the past five years.

Michael Hines: Back in the old days, everything was new in the ecommerce world and there weren’t all these widgets you threw together to make the site work. … Once you went through the chaos of building that site, you had to keep it running and marketing was always running at you with this and that. … It was like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what stuck. Marketing has full control of our technology schedule, now, and it’s a much more rational process.

Mike Diliberto: You had to make an awful lot of your own technology. Because you were building so much on your own, frequently it wouldn’t be as reliable as you wanted to. There was a defensive posture around “change.”… As technology became more reliable, change became more frequent.

Brett Keller: The CIOs used to be the CMOs' worst enemy. … That’s completely reversed itself. In order to be effective marketers externally, we have to push our product/content to our third-party partners. … We’ve gone through a number of organizational changes. We have a lot less process than we did back then. It’s much more agile and development teams have moved into our groups.

On the complexities of emerging channels.

Mike Diliberto: We’re not pushing information to a single platform. There’s now a plurality of platforms. We’re sending data to external partners and multiple versions of our website and mobile. … There are new complexities we didn’t use to have. The Priceline model -- we don’t hold the inventory ourselves. We have to consult inventory through Marriott or a supplier that connects to Marriott, so we have to make sure data is still the price that’s available for sale -- good engineering is required to do this.

On technology fragmentation in the CMO toolset.

Brett Keller: I have the same concerns and there is no easy way to do it.  We have to look at, "What customer segment are we not reaching and what tools can help us identify them?" Sometimes we will get recommendations from our biggest partners, like Facebook or Google. Setting up one partner and one test (requires) big people power to make it happen. I think companies get carried away with too many relationships. You have to talk to people to understand that – “Who to trust.”

Greg Coleman: I find it hard to believe that Google would recommend Criteo to you.

Brett Keller: Two years ago, maybe.

On managing the volume and the process of working with third-party partners.

Mike Diliberto: We come up with way many more ideas than we implement.

Greg Coleman: Even when I was on the publisher side, I was constantly trying to test technologies that would bring more revenue to us. … (With) the performance-marketing, programmatic companies, I ultimately realized I’d have to change the compensation plan (and figure out) how to get someone on the operations side involved once it worked.

Milton Pappas: It’s doing some reality checks. When I was at Toys R Us, our online business was over $1 billion. You have to be very careful about who you’re partnering with to be able to handle the volume and provide a great experience. You have to identify key metrics, who they’ve worked with in the past. There is time and resources involved in checking that.

On how marketers view agency partners in a world of performance marketing and attribution.

Milton Pappas: It depends on the level of expertise you have on your team. When I was at Redcats, we hired a paid search guy out of a paid search firm to manage the vendors because he came out of that world. By having internal expertise, you didn’t have to rely so much on vendor. But, for site recommendations, we did rely more on the agency or the vendor. … It depends on the objective.

Brett Keller: We have staffed our own teams to manage the majority of (data and targeting) ourselves. Agencies (for us) tend to (do) more of the creative narrative, and storytelling. … We think we’re fairly forward-thinking and to be efficient in this market, you need to be able to manage the dollars yourself.

On what they hope to accomplish with new tech.

Milton Pappas: From a retail perspective, omnichannel is really driving a lot of technology decisions and investment -- it’s a term now used in retail for seamless integration between channels -- iPad, mobile, desktop. Where you can start a transaction online and pick up in-store. … You have to have lots of collaboration across (the enterprise). The complexity now is where it’s not just attribution about a sale on a website or in-store. Now, it’s what prompted in-store from online.

Michael Hines: Ubiquitous computing will change how we do retail and being able to align the company’s entire architecture is my dream world. Where everything has a way of accessing the retail world, whether it’s a mobile device that’s geofenced to give that consumer a specific advertisement when they walk in a store or Siri booking a flight for me.

Brett Keller: We’re always on the prowl for new acquisition channels. We’re reaching a point where (we’re looking at), "Do we do more upper-funnel performance marketing to (get) people who have not visited our website?" … Like car shopping, you’re only in the market for a certain time and we need more data to do that.

On the Facebook Exchange.

Brett Keller: We test it and continue to test it. Anything with Facebook requires the ability to scale it. We like it, but it’s not a major piece of our transaction pool yet.

Milton Pappas: Facebook will be a much bigger opportunity in a year or two. All of the incremental stuff they’re doing has potential – the taking someone in a social channel to make that leap and purchase something because their friend recommended it is longer-term (potential). We’ll see what happens in terms of what’s scalable.

 

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