CMOs: Time to Learn a Little About Ad Tech

Four Strategies For Choosing the Right Tech

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When social media exploded, most CMOs were left scrambling to find a way to incorporate these new, emerging platforms into their marketing plans. This ushered in a new era of "social marketing," which has blurred the line between branded advertising and public relations. While CMOs hurried to move past their anxieties, leading CEOs understood the value of this platform and placed even more pressure on their marketing chief to quickly embrace this new world order.

Today, the digital environment has become even more complex and the advertising technology sector is particularly treacherous. Modern marketers are being forced to adapt, evolve and react to a "performance marketing" world driven by new technology that is pushing them out of their comfort zones into a new reality. The core competencies of the marketing world have never been more open to doubt than they are today.

In recent conversations with dozens of top marketers, it is clear to me that the game of digital media and advertising is changing too fast for most. I am regularly asked for advice on the world of performance marketing and marketers have only just begun to realize that this industry is not going away. Being competent in performance marketing is an absolute requirement for CMO success. And as hundreds of ad-tech companies clamor for attention in this space, marketers are not set up to go through the vigorous testing loop needed to understand which technology or technologies can help their business grow at a faster clip.

To get ahead, CMOs need to move past the "Lumascape" – that crowded and complex graphic we've all come to know – and form a better understanding of the ad tech market and its multiple players. The sooner marketers set up the right testing infrastructure and measure performance capabilities to identify the right partners, the faster they'll see how their current solutions are performing as well as the new partners that can help them push their business forward.

The challenge lies in defining the right ad-tech source and the right platform in an environment where new technologies and players are popping up every few months. Here are several ways CMOs should consider tackling this challenge:

Make a CTO your buddy
CMOs are no longer working alone. Internal partnerships with their CFO and CTO are critical to their success. With a huge focus on performance and metrics, the entire C-suite needs to come to the table with a vested interest in the right partner(s).

Beef up your testing
With so many players in the space, it is crucial that CMOs develop a strong internal infrastructure that allows them to invite multiple companies to come and test their solutions. By setting the right key performance indicators to evaluate the risks and rewards of each platform, marketers will be able to identify the solution that works best for their business. To be successful, marketers need to align closely with their CTO staff. This team must be incentivized to test and engage in this process. While CMOs are often held hostage by their CTOs – as goals do not line up in many instances - both departments must align their priorities in order for a testing environment to be successful and meet the needs of the company.

Stay independent
Look beyond your comfort zone. Be prepared to make a change with your current ad-tech partners, even if making the switch seems difficult. Recognize that some advertising agencies will push their own technology and do not find value in proper testing to find the best ad-tech solution for your business. Find the time yourself to discover the latest breakthroughs in advertising technology solutions. As more and more CFOs take an interest in the performance marketing channel and dig into the metrics, marketers need to own the right performance marketing relationship.

Choose your attribution model wisely
Spend what may seem like an inordinate amount of time on your attribution model. The right model will serve as a compass to guide you through a crowded marketplace, which is marked by too many false promises. As there is no one-size-fits all model, you will need to settle on an initial model and then be sure to have people with the right skills in place to observe its impact over time, gather insights from those observations, and ensure a sustained balance to your portfolio. There is a lot of homework that needs to be done here and understanding industry best practices is a great place to start.

Greg Coleman is the president of performance display ad firm Criteo. He was previously president and chief revenue officer of The Huffington Post and exec VP-global sales at Yahoo.
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