Future CMOs: Grand Visionaries, Data Virtuosos—Or Both?

As the world of advertising undergoes a digital evolution, can chief marketing officers merge the storytelling of the TV era with the data-driven insights of today’s digital world?

Future CMOs: Grand Visionaries, Data Virtuosos—Or Both?

In 2016, spending in digital advertising is predicted to surpass that of television advertising. The much-anticipated event is not a surprise given the trend lines.

However, approaching the milestone is giving brands, publishers, and agencies alike cause to reflect on its significance. How should brand CMOs think about marketing in a world in which digital advertising surpasses that of television advertising?

Insight-Driven Or Data-Driven Leaders?

Jake Sorofman, in his HBR article “The Rise of the Digital CMO,” paints a picture of a stark divide between the digital CMO of tomorrow and the traditional CMO of the past. In this view, there is currently a “mismatch between expertise and authority” and only the minority of traditional CMOs will be able to cross the digital divide. The data-driven, test-and-learn, constantly optimizing mindset of the digital marketer is what will be required of CMOs to succeed in the new world.

The opposing viewpoint, represented by Jeff Goodby in a Wall Street Journal blog post, compares digital marketers to plumbers and industrial roofers. In other words, digital marketing is an expanded set of executional levers, but the genius of marketing should continue to reside in insight-driven, big idea marketing vision. In this world, CMOs need to understand the tools but can delegate the execution to a capable digital team without transforming their own ethos.

Big Ideas And Big Data

In reality, the debate between digital and traditional belies the disruption taking place. Rather than digital inevitably surpassing traditional, it is a collision: of top-down and bottom-up; of intuitive and behavioral; of big ideas and big data. It is being driven by industry forces including the massive popularity of digital video, data-driven approaches to traditional television advertising, and the increasing acceptance of digital advertising for “higher funnel” brand marketing.

The Growth Of Digital Video

Forrester’s Luca S. Paderni highlights these forces in his report, ”Predictions 2016: Media’s Unbundling Accelerates,“and states that “TV [is becoming] video and video is TV.” Consumers are already spending 13 hours per month watching video content on desktop and mobile devices, such as YouTube, Sling TV, Hulu, and others. In November of 2015, Facebook announced that it sees an average of 8 billion daily video views, up from 4 billion just seven months prior. The same month, YouTube famously announced that the average time spent per mobile session was a staggering 40 minutes.

Digital video shares characteristics of both traditional television and digital marketing. Like traditional television advertising, digital video gives brands the ability to connect emotionally with consumers–making crucial the brand-building and creative storytelling skills that CMOs know so well.

The Union Of Digital Video And TV

Yet digital video also comes with addressability—the ability to reach narrow audiences and individuals with personalized marketing, at scale, by automating with technology. These are the skills of the digital marketer—targeting, testing, measuring, optimizing, and mastering the ad tech tools.

Furthermore, targeting audiences through data is also coming to traditional TV. Turner, for example, announced that it is reimagining the traditional TV spot, replacing traditional commercial breaks with longer-form native advertising content, combining their data and content teams and targeting the content across both television and digital.

On the flip side, brand building is increasing in importance within other digital channels. There is mounting evidence through sophisticated attribution tools that brand digital advertising has a significant brand building impact, and brands are moving “up funnel” with digital. Notwithstanding problems around ad blocking, fraud, and viewability, this means that creative storytelling is not just important in video advertising but also applies to other digital channels as well.

In short, CMOs should see the upcoming milestone in deeper terms than just digital overtaking television. It signifies the importance for CMOs to master both the creative storytelling of the TV era with the test, analyze, and optimize mentality of the digital one.