Last week I attended the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) event, “The Changing Face of the CMO”. With  key speaker Derek Robson managing partner of the renowned ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, being introduced by Mark Buckman, CMO of Tesltra.

Derek is widely recognised as helping transform Goodby Silverstein, helping it “get its groove back”.

At the start of its transformation effort (in 2011), 80% of the 26-year-old agency’s revenues came from traditional advertising campaigns (and less that 20% coming from digital initiatives). 12 months later, it’s 60/40.


Derek spoke about the impact of the digital revolution on marketing and advertising.

In preparation for the speech, apart from creating an entertaining video with a puppet that looked suspiciously like Jeff Goodby, he also interviewed a variety of CMOs to glean first hand feedback as to what was keeping them up at night.

He unearthed some good insights and I thought I’d share a few of them with you:

1) more noise less signal – we’re living in a world with more noise that’s drowning out the signals. So you need to consider how to break through the noise with a strong, single-minded idea. He posed whether the CMO’s role has become impossible as it needs to juggle so many disciplines: traditional advertising, PR, data, technology, social, e-commerce, digital, engagement pricing, value, ROI etc etc etc. Will the new CMO come from a maths and engineering background versus creative arts and traditional marketing?

2) Unpredictable predictability – he raised an interesting conundrum about CMOs wanting to create unpredictable and remarkable marketing that delivers predictable results.

3) CMO tenure – the average CMO tenure was 23 months in 2004 and is now 45 months. So CMOs are actually staying around longer. Does this mean they are being valued or has focus gone to other areas of the business: financial, technology, distribution?

4) Big Data – Derek’s central premise was not to espouse Big Data for Big Data’s sake. Plenty of CMOs are running around talking Big Data, however how many really understand what it is and how to glean “meaningful marketing” based on data insight? The magic in Big Data is in the questions you pose rather than the data itself.

5) Clarity – the best CMOs are the ones that are bringing a singular vision and clarity to the role rather than ticking a thousand things off their list. Are you focussed or chasing your tail?

At the end of the speech, and chatting with Derek after, I took heart. There are no golden answers.

We are in fact in the second digital revolution (with the first being in the late 90s ending in the dot-com bubble bursting). Yet we are still all working with old agency and client structures, processes and remuneration models.

I wonder what bold leader it will take to truly revolutionize the marketing and advertising landscape?

More on Derek and Goodyby Silverstein here:

The event was sponsored by TrinityP3 amongst other strategic partners.