No. 312: The Evolving CMO

On Accenture’s acquisition of Droga5 and the evolution of the full-stack, digitally-native agency. A lot can be said for the evolution of the early-stage CMO. It’s now common to spot data-driven, b-school graduates employed at early-stage retailers. Just five years ago – chief marketing roles were typically reserved for sales-minded creatives. This shift may be influenced by the position’s updated responsibilities; in earlier years, these responsibilities would resemble more of a CEO or CFO’s stake within the company.

These priorities include: cost accounting, personnel accounting, attribution sciences, and applications of Six Sigma principles: define, measure, analyze, design and verify. Equipped with paid marketing budgets and a creative director on staff, the traditional CMO is more data-driven than ever. In a early-stage meeting with a DTC retail CMO, I asked what his priority was over the next 6-12 months:

Paid, for now. It’s measurable.

This pivot towards the data-driven marketing approach is not without consequence; blind spots can develop. Modern CMOs are more likely to focus on shorter-term, tactile decisions at the cost of the brand-building strategies that may lead to better long-term outcomes. If there isn’t an ROA or an ROI assigned to the opportunity, it is rarely justified in the DTC era. As the adage goes, what can’t be measure cannot be improved. Droga5 founder David Droga suggests that this approach to marketing is incomplete at best. Here’s a recent quote by Droga:

CEOs, CMOs, and CIOs all need to be on the same page, because they all affect each other now. This isn’t a nice-to-have. I think it’s going to be crucial for any brand going forward. This is future-proofing.

On Droga5 and Accenture

Accenture. Spun-off from Arthur Anderson in 2001, Accenture serves as the leading management consulting firm that provides services to include: operations management, strategic insights, and consulting. A Global Fortune 500, the company serves clients in over 120 countries with over 250,000 employees. Accenture reported net revenues of nearly $40 billion in 2018.

Droga5. Based in New York and founded in 2006, Droga5 is an award-winning, global advertising agency with a roster of high-impact, advertising successes. William Morris Endeavor invested in Droga5 in 2013. This allowed Droga5 to combine their advertising resources with WME’s entertainment connections, allowing Droga5 to develop a cache of major advertising partners. Accenture’s acquisition suggests that the combination was a successful one, and WME reportedly profited on the Accenture acquisition. The impact of this deal is a significant moment. Fast Company explained:

In easily the highest profile deal the ad industry has seen in recent memory, Accenture Interactive announced this morning that it has fully acquired creative advertising agency Droga5, which counts Under Armour, HBO, the New York Times, Amazon, Covergirl, and more major brands as clients. The deal will see all of Droga5’s 500 employees across offices in New York and London become a major creative cog in Accenture Interactive’s massive $8.5 billion digital customer experience and marketing services machine.

The report goes on:

Droga5’s founder and creative chairman, acknowledges that folding his company into Accenture Interactive reflects a larger reality: Brand communications have gone far beyond just advertising, into every time and place a consumer interacts with and experiences a brand–from retail to e-commerce to, yes, even ads.

The Droga5 Signal

This new category of full-service agency will surely influence other mergers and acquisitions. But most importantly, this will require new brand CMO to reimagine their roles and address the brain lateralization that has led to an increased dependency on Facebook and Google over the last five years. In June 2018, 2PM published “The Patreon Signal.” In it, I wrote: “Patreon’s acquisition of Kit and Memberful has signaled an uptick in M&A and partnership activity throughout the creator space.” This is a similar moment for the agency space.

Accenture has invested in sponsored media to advertise Accenture Interactive for some time and was best-positioned for this type of partnership. More agencies in the shape of Droga5 will be sought after as top management consulting firms like Deloitte, McKinsey, and KPMG look to compete with Accenture’s groundbreaking acquisition. Just this week, eCommerce and branding agency BVAccel acquired Katana, a paid media agency that may help BVA address more of the needs of its clients.

Agencies that combine the best practices of traditional advertising, data science, and creative expression will make its way to the DTC space. Accenture’s acquisition of Droga5 signals that for chief marketers, relying on the instant gratification of data-driven marketing will be an insufficient strategy – especially for those early stage companies that seek to develop lasting brands. AdAge’s Penry Price on these developments:

Rising agency players like Giant Spoon, gyro, Heat, Oberland, and Phenomenon are leaving their marks on the industry by combining speed, data, creativity, digital products (apps) and marketing optimization. Rest assured that Accenture Interactive and Droga5 will do their level best to provide a similar combination of services as soon as possible, and they will likely succeed.

Late-stage digitally native retailers will seek out the style of full-spectrum services offered by the Accenture-Droga5 partnership or the many creative consulting hybrids that this acquisition will further influence. This is not only attributable to the services that Accenture will give, rather due to how their offering influences the agency’s overall approach to problem solving. But for the brands that feel their strategies should stay close-to-vest, the CMO role must evolve to meet four goals that the new consumer economy will need.

  • CMOs will be responsible for digitizing all traditional (offline) marketing communications. These marketing leaders must apply a layer of measurement to in-store marketing, physical retail operations, print marketing, and other forms of traditional marketing.
  • Marketers must be tasked with leading workforce education and evaluation. Rather than partnering with agencies to discuss in-house weaknesses, CMOs will lead training efforts that insure that their teams are aware of the latest data, industry developments, and technologies that are most useful to the company’s revenue targets and brand defensibility.
  • CMOs must be able to find and invest in the brand, agency, and media partnerships necessary to move concepts and strategies from proof of concept to reality. These partnerships must be prioritized to keep up a forward-thinking posture and an emphasis on the insights necessary to pursue longer-term goals.
  • And CMOs must combine skill in data-driven marketing with the willingness to adjust to a rapidly changing digital environment that may offer better, more cost-effective opportunities elsewhere – both online and offline.

Coaches tell their quarterbacks to keep their eyes down the field when they leave the pocket. For marketers, that analogy is more relevant than ever. Within digitally native brands and traditional retailers-alike: chief marketers have long-leaned heavily on what was measurable, even if that approach has cannibalized longer-term prospects. The Droga5 acquisition suggests that marketers may begin realigning their resources to pursue a more holistic approach to brand messaging, awareness, and sales – efforts beyond the dependency on paid media spend.

Marketers will tolerate more brand-side experimentation and risk-taking. But unlike the marketing and advertising efforts of earlier years – the goal is to use observations to de-risk opportunities as quickly as technologies will allow. Risk aversion is still an objective but more chief marketers will grow to become the explorers of their industry. More than ever, these executives will be tasked with forging new paths and modernizing their approach to measuring the data that tells the story.

Read the No. 312 curation here.

Report by Web Smith | About 2PM

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