Why CMOs Are In the Line of Fire: Analytics, Automation, Accountability and AI

analytics, Marketing & Advertising Technology, Other

February 19, 2018 by

Editor's Note:  Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.orgTo complement our upcoming webinar with former Hershey's CMO Peter Horst, he joins us today to discuss the significance of the Chief Marketing Officer in an increasingly automated world.


There's no question that Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is a challenging role to fill.

Last year saw some of the the world's biggest advertisers cut digital ad spending by over $100 million, which saw no effect on sales growth. This has left many CMOs feeling the pressure to deliver or turnover.  

Much of that pressure comes with the territory of the job. Each CMO has a growing number of complex tasks to juggle, projects to deliver and spending decisions to make. Compound all that complexity with disruptions like automation, analytics, accountability and artificial intelligence? You've got a perfect storm of pressure aiming right at the marketing department. And as Fortune 500 CMO Peter Horst would say, today's Chief Marketing Officer is in the line of fire.

Analytics and Automation

MarTech and AdTech are the biggest contributors to the CMO role's growing complexity.

As little as ten years ago, a Chief Marketing Officer might have been tasked with ad buys inside a relatively small network of publishers for a single campaign. Today's CMO can oversee ad buys from hundreds of publishers, most of them digital, for multiple campaigns and branding initiatives over a more extended period of time.

With so many options and the pace of change always increasing, CMOs are forced to manage mounting complexity by purchasing new technologies or hiring agencies to help them monitor their digital ad buys and offer them additional analytics.

Mostly, this pressure has resulted in less spending on ad agencies than spending on new technologies, especially new technologies that support marketing analytics.

In fact, according to last year's CMO Survey, spending on marketing analytics is projected to grow by 229% over the next 3 years,

This trend in digital spending on marketing technology follows the trend of CMOs spending far more on digital advertising than on traditional advertising.

Why? Because CMOs like having access to more analytics, as well as the promise of automated, programmatic ad buys.

With programmatic ad buys, CMOs can set a hands-off strategy for maximum reach at the same time as place ads in front of qualified leads at the opportune place and time.

And with access to extra analytics from new marketing technologies, CMOs can also maximize conversions by letting data do the work for them.

So what happens when data won't deliver?

While CMOs and marketing departments like the potential simplicity and precision that comes with programmatic buying and access to performance-based marketing analytics, these strategies don't guarantee a return on investment. In fact, they might guarantee a wakeup call.

And because CMOs are now tasked with bigger purchase decisions that involve tracking the results of those decisions with increasingly precise marketing analytics, they're shouldering a bigger burden of accountability for delivery.


When it comes to measuring ROI and performance, the CMO's bar gets higher and higher.

Where once measuring a CMO's return on investment was subject to rebuttals of intangibility, companies can now measure the revenue attributable to marketing departments with much greater precision.

Metrics like return on marketing investment (ROMI) have become crucial to keeping marketers accountable in this respect. As have performance analytics, which can measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns and marketing strategies at local, regional and global levels.  

So when the data show that marketing ROI is out of sync with sales revenues, CMOs can be held accountable for poor numbers and poor decisions.

Because data-driven marketing decisions are no longer the exception; they are the rule.

Which means that CMOs need to learn how to drive that data, or learn how to ship out.

Artificial Intelligence

While AI might still be a ways away from mass market usability, it's already forever changed the game of customer relations.

Most CMOs would probably agree that the biggest advances occurring in the world of artificial intelligence do not include self-driving cars, but voice search and chatbots.

In 2017, the number of people using personal assistants like OK Google, Alexa and Siri grew notably, and the size of the voice and and speech technology market is projected to grow even more notably over the next several years.

Which means that CMOs are feeling the pressure to start thinking about how and where they can best meet this market. One of the biggest tasks in doing this is revising the language of their company's web presence to mimic the rhythms and cadences of natural language queries. This way, the growing market share of searchers who use voice command for their search queries will be directed to them.

An even bigger challenge is knowing how and when to invest in chatbots, which are becoming an increasingly elegant, complex and necessary part of customer relations.

But like McDonald's CMO Deborah Wahl suggested last month when stressing the importance of learning something new every day, much of the challenge of being a CMO is handling the pressure of adapting to our relatively new (and fast-paced) digital work environment.

One of the ways Wahl told us it's possible to manage such complexity is by keeping things simple.

Can you hack it and stay out of the line of fire?

Want to know how you can think like a CMO? Learn from the best in the business! Former Hershey's CMO Peter Horst will join us in a FREE webinar to discuss key elements that a CMO must master to stay out of the line of fire in 2018.

portraitJoin us with Peter Horst on February 21, 2018 at 12:00PM PST / 03:00PM EST

Your evolution starts here. Try our classes for free.10 day free trial

10 day free trial