Getting Digital Agencies Back In The Room With The CMO

Patrick Johnson, Global CEO at Hybrid Theory

There is certainly no shortage of valuable data in today’s world of digital marketing, but the struggle to connect it all so that it can be leveraged effectively—to discover new audiences, increase sales and build brands—has some of the best and brightest marketing minds paralyzed with frustration. This vast universe of fragmented information is causing chief marketing officers to shut down—and digital advertising agencies are being shut out in the process.

When client relationships devolve from collaborative to transactional, it is only a matter of time before the account is under review or out the door entirely. Whether an agency is pitching new business, preserving its role as agency of record or fighting to win back the one that got away, success will likely hinge on the relationship with the CMO. And for many of those on the digital media agency front, that person has become increasingly elusive.

CMOs are real people. Just like the rest of us, they experience the failings of old-school online marketing firsthand. Every time a CMO gets served an ad for the shoes they were looking for ten weeks ago, they are reminded of the fact that the standard refresh rate is one to three months, their performance report-fueled cynicism is reignited and they realize that this kind of inefficiency is commonplace—even with third-party cookies still in place. One end result of this is that their desire to sit and talk with the agency charged with delivering digital media diminishes even further.

When it comes to expected tenure within the C-suite, data shows that the chief marketing officer is the most expendable. And while this vulnerability can translate into a fear of new methodology, it is entirely possible to break through that resistance with solutions that make their lives easier. As the CEO of a behavioral intelligence platform that builds brands through unexpected information and bespoke audiences, I know that establishing a productive and collaborative relationship with the CMO means coming to the table with unprecedented insights that can be activated in real time and at less cost than a one-time intensive marketing research project.

Here are five suggestions that I share with our digital media agency clients that are struggling to reconnect with their CMO clients.

1. Tell your CMO something surprising about their audience.

We live in a complex world full of multi-layered people, and their online journeys back and forth between the open web and social media reveal unexpected connections and marketing opportunities. To cite one example, our behavioral data scientists recently discovered a high affinity for heavy metal music among Catholic nuns. When reaching out to your CMO, aim to share that caliber of insight.

2. Connect your AI to your humanity.

I have AI, you have AI, we all have AI. If you want to make your CMO’s eyes glaze over, speak of your algorithm as if it is a highly secured black box floating on an actual cloud. At this stage of the game, the smartest artificial intelligence seems to have the smartest humans driving it and interpreting it, and that’s not a coincidence. How do you relate to your AI to enrich the output? That’s what a CMO wants to know.

3. Abandon irrelevant metrics.

There are too many to name, but media delivery is at the top of the list. Many marketers have been led to believe that their media delivery data is a proxy for the success of their campaigns, but smart CMOs know that that data isn’t sufficient enough to gauge impact and it is essentially a toll.

4. Don’t be intimidated by the walled gardens.

Despite the ramped-up costs and deteriorating returns, Facebook and Google aren’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean you can’t outsmart them. Google can easily tell you what worked and what didn’t, but it can’t tell you what would have worked better. And that is the question on top of every CMO’s mind as they struggle to understand their audience. So, provide CMOs with that information. The old adage of “nobody ever got fired for buying Google” should be amended to include “but nobody ever learned anything from buying Google either.”

5. Embrace the language of advertising.

CMOs went into marketing because of their passion to build fan bases, expand audience reach and inspire people to convert, not to recite adtech jargon. The human connection of advertising is what a marketer understands more than anything—and that’s also what interests them.

If there is one thing that CMOs are craving amidst today’s highly fragmented media ecosystem, it is a simple solution. And whether a relationship is business or personal, the best way to revive one that is failing is by providing new energy and new information. Thankfully, that kind of new information is readily available to agencies that are committed to discovering new audiences and leveraging intelligence in creative ways. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look, letting go of tired practices and being open to something new and unexpected.

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