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Mastercard Chief Marketing Officer Raja Rajamannar: 'An existential threat' faces CMOs

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Raja Rajamannar
Raja Rajamannar


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An expansive marketer in an era of the incredible shrinking CMO tenure, Mastercard's Raja Rajamannar believes the c-suite marketer is under siege. "There is a little bit of an existential threat for the CMO role," he says, pointing to the fact that big companies like Coca-Cola and others have eliminated the position entirely.

"What does that tell you? It says that CMOs in many companies are not able to justify their role. They're not able to prove the value they bring to the table for the CEO, for the CFO," he says. The goal, he says, is to "connect the dots between the marketing KPIs and the business results. That is what gives the confidence for the CFO and CEO."

Tech savvy and ubiquitous on the speaking circuit, Rajamannar joins the Ad Lib podcast to discuss marketing at scale in a time when people hate ads—and have the power to block them. He explains this is why he believes "storytelling is dead" in an advertising context and it is incumbent on brands to create experiences for their customers (no small feat when, in Mastercard's case, the company touches some 1.7 billion people around the world).

"Consumers look at advertisements as an annoyance, as an interruption to their experience. They're very irritated," he says. "When consumers are screaming in your face saying that 'I don't want your stupid ads' and we say, 'No no we will tell you better ads,' is a very foolish approach."

We discuss the surprising durability of the 20-year-old "Priceless" campaign, which has been forced to evolve in the five years since Rajamannar came on board. We also talk about a recent Mastercard campaign that received a bit of social media backlash for promising to donate meals to starving children every time footballers Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr score a goal during the World Cup—an ad that the company ended up pulling.

"When the social media engine is moving, no one has the patience to really understand the whole story—they just look at the headline and start freaking out," he says.

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