The new three-way: CIO, CMO & Agency

Good article on AdAge this morning, Friends With (Digital) Benefits: CMOs Link With CIOs.

The article includes several great anecdotes, from both agencies and brands, talking about the increased frequency of three-way meetings — the CMO, the CIO, and the agency — all collaborating together:

Agencies, especially those involved with digital work, say they’re increasingly taking meetings with both the CIO and CMO. Marketers in retail, financial services and media have been among the first to liaise with their technology teams, agencies say, and the result has been more useful customer data and innovative campaigns.

3-Way Switch

There’s also some insightful commentary from Luca Paderni, a leading Forrester analyst focused on marketing leadership. (I’m looking forward to hearing Luca present on this topic at Forrester’s CIO-CMO Forum here in Boston this Thursday.)

“At this point,” remarks Luca, “Even the marketer that would like to go it alone is realizing the level of complexity and data management is too big to manage alone.”

However, there’s a hidden logic in this story that I’d like to dig up.

The article recommends CIOs and CMOs work together. Check, couldn’t agree more. The article also shows that in that mode, CIOs are becoming “at peace” with having external agencies implement marketing-related tech work. Check, again. This is arguably one of the success drivers of new tech-savvy agencies such as SapientNitro.

If I paraphrase that:

1. IT is providing high-level consulting and governance to marketing missions.

2. People other than IT staff are doing some or all of the actual implementation.

In other words, if IT is comfortable providing advisory and governance services while another group actually implements marketing technology, should it matter whether that other group is a third-party agency or the marketing department itself?

Of course, in all fairness, not all marketing technology is created equal. The more embedded a technology proposes to be in a company’s operations — even if it’s primarily marketing operations, such as with marketing automation platforms — the more IT might feel that is infringing upon their traditional domain.

So-called “creative technology” — such as an app implemented on Facebook or the iPhone — feels easier to relinquish because IT rarely had that kind of stuff under its control previously.

Still, the lines are blurring, and this open three-way collaboration is an important step in the right direction. It’s like watching a genetic algorithm unfold before our eyes, the DNA of marketing and IT entwining and evolving:

While many companies will be hammering out this relationship in the months and years to come, a hybrid exec is already beginning to emerge. Take, for example, Eric Pearson, chief marketing officer for the Americas division of InterContinental Hotels Group. He started out at IHG as senior director-emerging technologies, before moving into e-commerce and then marketing. That kind of cross-pollination — “geeks” heading to the marketing department and vice versa — will be a boon for the C-suite, Mr. Paderni said.

“Technology is becoming critical to marketing,” said Mr. Pearson, who has a degree in electrical engineering. “The next generation of CMOs will be a blend.

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6 thoughts on “The new three-way: CIO, CMO & Agency”

  1. thanks Scott, great summary. And love the DNA analogy.
    Question for you – why do you think it is that, as in this Adage article, technology is generally portrayed as a key component of digital marketing only, as opposed to both on- and off-line marketing?

  2. Good point!
    I think the fact that technology is effectively inescapable in digital marketing — and that digital marketing is largely seen as the fascinating “disruptive innovation” force in our industry — makes it easy to argue marketing technology changes in that context. But you’re absolutely right, the impact technology is having on offline marketing (and the hybrid of the two) is exciting and deserves more attention.

  3. Great post Scott!
    This moves constituents past the turf battles and allows them to each do what they do best:
    IT: security, normalization, infrastructure, core business functions
    Marketing: branding, strategic direction and focus
    Agencies: cutting edge digital execution

  4. Scott, great perspective. It is interesting, as you point out, that some “technology” initiatives are quickly handed over to marketing, yet others IT still tries to hold close.
    Rather than splitting this between the traditional IT domain and the new marketing initiatives (like Facebook apps), do you see this split forming based on integration requirements? When marketing technology needs to be tightly integrated with things IT still oversees, it seems IT looks to maintain more control. However, marketing technology initiatives that do not require integration with existing IT infrastructure are being taken on by marketing.
    What are your thoughts on how this line is shaping up?

  5. Hi, Eric — great questions.
    I do think there’s more than one way to slice this apple. In the short-term, I suspect the division of labor between IT and marketing will be heavily influenced by the legacy culture of an organization and the personalities/politics of the respective department heads. New organizations, growing up in this SaaS-y Marketing 2.0 era, seem somewhat more flexible in their marketing technology leadership approaches.
    Conceptually, I agree with you: the more “integration” involved, the more sense it makes for IT to have a more direct role in it.
    The challenge, however, is that “integration” is a blurry line. The push is for data sharing and application synergy across the board. Some integration points will be very simple, relying on public APIs or established data formats. Others will require a little tinkering. And still others will require heavy lifting engineering.
    Depending on how technically savvy a marketing department is — say, if it has a programmer or two on its own staff — or how technically savvy their agency(ies) or other service providers are, they may be able to handle more and more of that integration.
    Of course, integration isn’t just about passing data into the hub; it’s also about the steps taken to assure data quality and data security. Marketing increasingly has a direct stake in those objectives, but IT usually has more expertise — and very often the governance authority over such standards company-wide. (Which I think they should.)
    So, I guess in answer to “how this is shaping up” — I’d say we’re still in the sausage-making stage.

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