CMOs hold the key to bridging the art and science of ad tech
CMOs hold the key to bridging the art and science of ad tech
A view from Qasim Saifee

Technology needs to help with the modern dilemmas of a CMO, not complicate them

There are steps CMOs and the industry must take to ensure ad technology is fulfilling its potential, says Qasim Saifee, SVP monetisation platform,...

The role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) holds a breadth of responsibilities, many of which are changing rapidly due to advances in technology. With the accountability of controlling advertising budgets comes the pressure to keep up with industry developments and allocate spend effectively. Technological innovation should therefore be a lifeline to CMOs, providing the means to streamline processes and ensure that marketing investments have the highest ROI possible. So how can CMOs effectively incorporate advances in advertising technology?

This question was raised during a recent industry panel hosted by OpenX, with participants including myself, Seth Rogin, Chief Revenue Officer at Mashable, Phuong Nguyen, Director of Advertising at Ebay, and Ben Fox, VP Media & Technology at King.com. Together we defined the main modern-day dilemmas facing CMOs, and discussed what advertising technology can do to solve them.

Maintaining brand safety

Ensuring brand safety is a key concern for CMOs as awareness of the impact inappropriate ad placements can have on a brand’s online reputation increases. With more than 1 in 10 ad placements deemed high-risk last year, brand safety has led to reservations about the quality of automated inventory, making CMOs often wary of programmatic.

Phuong Nguyen, Director of Advertising at Ebay, suggested the solution lies in technology providers striking "the right balance" between audience quality and context, where the environment is carefully matched to the values of the brand. While ad exchanges such have made significant investments and progress in ensuring the brand safety of inventory made available to marketers, advertising technology providers must simultaneously communicate and empirically demonstrate how these advances prevent poor placements, thereby protecting brands.

Guarding against ad fraud

Digital ad spend in the UK has reached a record high, topping £4.7 billion in the first quarter of 2015, and absorbing an even larger portion of the CMO’s budget. Yet with more investment came an increase in fraud, predicted to cost the industry $6.3 billion globally in 2015. Though the panel acknowledged that the presence of fraudsters is inevitable, commitment to constant vigilance and firmer action was unanimous. 

With vast amounts of inventory bought and sold in seconds, often where the principals have no direct relationship with one another, programmatic is ostensibly more vulnerable to fraud than many other types of media. With this in mind, it is critical for CMOs to partner with vendors to independently verify and authenticate the inventory they source.  In doing so, they can gain much-needed insight into the level of fraudulent inventory being accessed programmatically and take steps to eliminate suspicious sources. Ultimately, this not only benefits marketers but also rewards high quality publishers by minimising the funds that flow to publishers engaging in nefarious activity.

Keeping up with consumers

The focus of advertising technology is constantly changing to keep up with the habits and interests of consumers. As Ben Fox, VP Media & Technology at King.com commented, "The mobile programmatic debate has moved so fast that it’s over. Mobile is here." Almost half of online content is viewed on mobile devices and to provide CMOs with the tools for mobile advertising success, advertising technology companies may soon need to pre-empt trends before they even happen.

Seth Rogin, Chief Revenue Officer at Mashable, explained that for the modern marketer, serving ads according to what is already trending on Twitter is too late – predictive technology that accesses influencers before they tweet is the real future of programmatic, especially on mobile where information is instant. New touch points will require new metrics, making it essential for advertising technology providers to help CMOs to measure the impact of marketing messages delivered across the various points of interaction with a consumer.

The biggest challenge CMOs face is not the rapid pace of technological development; rather, it is a lack of education about how to use it effectively. Mashable’s Rogin observed that advertising technology companies supply the tools, but it is the CMOs who build the art out of the science — tech innovators need to embrace being the paintbrush. It is therefore the responsibility of advertising technology companies to provide CMOs with a greater understanding of the power that data-driven automation holds in transforming advertising, ultimately helping them achieve their overall marketing objectives.