Today's CMO Succeeds By Balancing Martech, Ad Tech In The Consumer Journey

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, June 8, 2017

In today’s digital advertising and marketing landscape, CMOs are faced with a multitude of options, and one question that regularly arises is whether to combine, integrate, and marry ad tech and martech. But should these two technologies even be combined into one solution? The question is a provocative one.

Two years ago, Gartner analyst Martin Kihn recommended the marriage of ad tech and martech and stated that any resistance to their inevitable union would be futile. CMOs should immediately embrace the idea of a unification. Kihn certainly isn’t the only digital advertising analyst advocating for marriage.

Kihn’s endorsement of an ad tech/martech marriage resonated. The underlying argument is that ad tech and martech are both designed to help marketers accomplish the same thing. You want your marketing technology to collect data on prospect behavior, turn that data into useful marketing analytics, and use those insights to deliver more effective, personalized marketing messages to your audience. However, this argument is now two years old. Does it still hold true?



Cut to last month, when Kihn called for their divorce. The marriage didn’t last long! Kihn now believes that the two functions will never unite because they are fundamentally different — from disparate billing models to different types of talent required to manage the process. He now believes that both should remain siloed and work in parallel and not form a union. From my view, they can still be friends that work together within the consumer journey to maximize sales. 

This is accomplished by combining and co-piloting the principles of skillful brand advertising (persistent, consistent brand imagery and messaging) and data-driven, targeted, nurturing marketing and ad activation leveraging technology. If all of this is done with a focus on delivering resonance and relevance in order to engage and convert, measuring successes and scaling them — the union can thrive. The first indication will be lift.

Whether selling an enterprise technology platform or toothpaste, when a marketing campaign drives sales lift, we have a key measure of success. And as many CMOs know very well, there is a direct correlation between sales and their own tenure. If a company’s sales metrics are “up and to the right,” the CMO will have a long tenure.

But what part of the ad tech/martech equation generates sales? When digital advertising was first conceived, marketers were assured of a rational, logical digital marketing and sales ecosystem — a clickstream of relevant ads delivered to prospects with buying intention. But that reality isn’t here — yet.

We can agree though that both ad tech and martech are designed to generate sales, albeit in different ways. Ad tech traditionally operates like a media company, selling and delivering ad impressions that fulfill a twin mission: prospecting and brand building. Success here is measured by clicks, visibility, frequency, and so on.

Martech promises a deeper relationship with prospects. Powered by rich data sets it can deliver messages and/or content to target audiences to generate engagement, allowing for greater measurement and attribution. 

Both functions are designed to do their part in bringing people into the funnel and generating awareness, which turns into leads, which can be converted into sales. The art is developing the balance between buying attention and building on a richer understanding of your audience in order to participate in their consumer journey more assertively and to greater return.

Martech is built to allow for deep relationships with individual prospects along their journey, relationships that power things that are overly complicated in the cookie-based digital channel, things like measurement and attribution in stores. After all, in most cases, basic ad tech metrics give all of the value to the final click.

For example, a B2B marketer using a fusion of ad tech and martech will be able to identify a prospect as they move from their smartphone in the morning to their laptop at work and onto their tablet in the evening. The two technologies will be able to deliver display ads and lead-generation content at every touchpoint, nudging the prospect at every step of the buyer’s journey. 

With these differences in ad tech and martech, how can a CMO manage both effectively to achieve what we stated above as the ultimate goal — increased sales?

There is no one company on the ad tech side that addresses all a marketer’s needs. There are no martech platforms that can emulate the entire ad tech ecosystem. The opportunity for the CMO is to look at both and understand their individual strengths and how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  

CMOs should worry less about conjoining these two and spend more time thinking across disciplines and pulling the best from both worlds. In many B2B practices branding and lead gen reside in separate silos, fragmenting what can be a very integrated process. It will require a cultural shift to pull these two more closely together. Until then, marketers should strive to understand business objectives, leveraging data to maximize resonance and executing a campaign with the goal of generating sale lift for a company.

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