"Ideally [chief information officers would] be involved in all
such projects. There's high risk when they're not in the room and
you're building something with a level of complexity that 's not
just delivering a message to a consumer," said Patricia
Korth-McDonnell, partner-client services for Interpublic digital
agency Huge .
It's the reason why agencies shouldn't be surprised to see Dave
Finnegan, CIO at Build-A-Bear, and Teresa Kroll, CMO at
Build-A-Bear, tag team on agency reviews. "I came to the
realization about four years ago, when we were working on this
digital world and doing an RFP. Dave and I started to talk about
it, and I said, "I don't think I'm capable of doing this on my own,
because there will be so many technological questions,'" Ms. Kroll
remembered. "We went through the process together, and it was
amazing how we looked at things differently. Ever since then we
work together on basically every agency selection I make or he
Agencies, especially those involved with digital work, say
they're increasingly taking meetings with both the CIO and CMO.
Marketers in retail, financial services and media have been among
the first to liaise with their technology teams, agencies say, and
the result has been more useful customer data and innovative
"If you can find the modern CIO that 's into innovation, they're
going to have some good ideas on how to use Facebook or Android,"
said Shannon Denton, president of the central region for Razorfish, a Publicis Groupe agency
that often works with both CMOs and CIOs. "If you can marry that
with the marketer's knowledge of the brand or consumers, you have a
But just three years ago, getting CIOs and CMOs to talk was
nearly impossible, said Sapient CEO Alan Herrick. Today about half
of his agency's meetings start with a CIO in the room. The company
has even spawned a new breed of agency, hoping to further bridge
the CMO-CIO divide. After growing up as a technology consultancy
that primarily dealt with CIOs selecting and integrating new
systems, Sapient Corp. formed SapientNitro, an
agency-services arm to back that tech expertise with marketing
But with two stakeholders in relatively new territory,
challenges can -- and do -- arise. Who owns a project? When does
marketing get involved, and likewise, when does technology get
involved? And exactly how do execs get their disparate teams to
Mr. Paderni said the companies that are having the most success
are embracing a shared view of the customer, along with shared
business goals and metrics. He also suggests starting with
something simple, like a joint audit of systems that deal with
gathering, analyzing and distributing customer data and insights.
"Start to improve what you have. Most often it's not the tool that
's the problem, it's how it's been implemented," he said.
And, as with most things, setting the right example and
effecting change starts at the top. Build-A-Bear's Mr. Finnegan
acknowledged that the CIO and his or her team used to be the group
that "sat in a cold room. You didn't see or hear from them much."
But as he began to recognize the shift in marketing that would
require more technological know-how, he sought to build a close
relationship with Ms. Kroll and her team. The pair attends
conferences together and even interviews each other's job
candidates. The message to their teams -- and potential hires -- is
crystal clear: "We're all focused on the same objectives," summed
up Mr. Finnegan.
But Build-A-Bear is still the exception, said Mr. Paderni,
though he said that CMOs and CIOs at many companies, including
Supervalu and AB-InBev, are also doing a good job of working
Huge 's Ms. Korth-McDonnell said embracing a structure that
facilitates collaboration is key, as is hammering out exactly when
the technology team should get involved. "The lines of
communications or the approval to grab each other is not there,"
she said. "Companies need to have the structure to connect the dots
without the agency having to facilitate."
Still, while many companies will be hammering out this
relationship in the months and years to come, a hybrid exec is
already beginning to emerge. Take, for example, Eric Pearson, chief
marketing officer for the Americas division of InterContinental
Hotels Group. He started out at IHG as senior director-emerging
technologies, before moving into e-commerce and then marketing.
That kind of cross-pollination -- "geeks" heading to the marketing
department and vice versa -- will be a boon for the C-suite, Mr.
"Technology is becoming critical to marketing," said Mr.
Pearson, who has a degree in electrical engineering. "The next
generation of CMOs will be a blend."