Former Omnicom exec: "A CMO armed with AI can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the board room"

The one AI-powered capability that every chief marketing officer should arm themselves with is predictive analytics, adman-turned-investor Wes Nichols told tech conference CogX today.

"Thanks to this, Anne Lewnes, chief marketing officer of Adobe can now walk into her chief executive's office and say: 'This is what we're going to do, this is what will happen and so this is the money we need'. This assurance and confidence is what we're looking at when you combine AI with predictive analytics," Nichols said.

Nichols described himself as a "recovering ad executive". In 2003 he left his role as chief executive and president of now-defunct Omnicom digital marketing agency Tequila to launch MarketShare, a martech company that he sold to Neustar. He is now board partner of venture capital firm Upfront Ventures.

"I have watched the marketing industry completely targeted and disrupted by technology," he said, waving his hand at the Lumascape. "Raja Rajamannar, the chief marketing officer of Mastercard, told me that he gets 350 emails or phone calls a day from these companies. That's crazy and not sustainable and chief marketing officers need help," Nichols said. 

His comments echo those made by Jeremy Waite, tech evangelist at IBM, and Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G. 

Waite said in a talk last year that CMOs are typically is one of the least trusted people in the boardroom. "The problem with the role of chief marketing officer is that it’s too big, too undefined and too wide-ranging, Waite said. "Just look at the martech stack... How are brands supposed to do this?"

Pritchard, speaking at Viva Tech Paris 2018 last month, said that marketers needed to "seize back control of data and reinvent marketing". 

According to Nichols, to gain the trust of the boardroom, chief marketers must arm themselves with the data and information that predictive analytics will gain them.

"Rather than backward-looking data, such as ROI and modelling, predictive analytics will help marketers identify exactly where their money should go for the best results, and what the contribution is that their efforts bring to the company,' Nichols said.

One marketing team that uses a tech stack that enables this is online broker TD Ameritrade, Nichols said. Thanks to this, the company's CMO can "go toe-to-toe with anyone in the boardroom, which is full of finance directors," he continued. "She can tell them, in numbers 'Here's what I bring to the business. Here's marketing's contribution to net new revenue'." 

So, where do chief marketers start? First, prep for in-house AI by identifying the gaps in data, infrastructure and talent, Nichols advised.


"Next, build your interlocking decision engines. Every company has seven tech platforms they need and I haven't found one company that can do it all very well - they'd like to, but they don't have all the components yet so you have to find the right combinations," he said.

Finally, partner with the VC Community to identify innovation that drives breakthrough ideas. 

"It's an exciting time. It is a different world than we’ve ever been in. It’s the beginning of the world as we know it," Nichols concluded.

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