Don’t Underestimate the CMO-CFO Relationship | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Don’t Underestimate the CMO-CFO Relationship


There is a tremendous amount of emphasis on the relationships between CEOs and CMOs. However, what is often overlooked is the relationship between the CMO and CFO, who by nature, work closely together due to the changing nature of budgets and allocations for various projects and investments (such as on tech uses).

An essential part of a CMOs job is not only getting the work done, but making sure the work provides value and meaning for the consumer, meeting their needs and pain points, while also leveraging team skills, time, and budget efficiently. This is why Jenny Wall, CMO at VideoAmp, believes CMOs are the "voice of customers" and "unsung revenue heroes for advertising."

Wall discussed the evolving role of CMOs, as well as its challenges and opportunities in the face of technological, cultural, climate, and economic change. To not only survive these changes, but remain relevant and drive profit, innovation and agility are required not only for the job, but for companies as a whole.

How is the role of CMOs changing, especially in light of emerging technologies, such as AI?

I think the CMO role is becoming much more important, because it has its tentacles in all of the different spaces now, whether that's research and insights, or acquisition and retention. CMOs are obviously the voice of the customer — sometimes we're the only one that's speaking up for the customer in the room, [whether] to say, "This is a bad experience or this is a great experience." We're the advocate for them, but we're [also] just so much more responsible for financial ROAS than an ROI across all these different channels. And understanding the tech and how you actually tie all those pieces together is integral to show that marketing teams are revenue generators versus cost centers.

I think that's the biggest change: We're not just cost centers that make great commercials, we actually are almost students of technology ... understanding data and having to work directly with the [different] teams to actually help create the story — and then continually pivot. There's so much pressure on you because of all the data because it's available. Whereas a long time ago, you had to guess if it was working; now you have to understand if you've got an MMM model or an MTA model, and then you've got attribution models and optimization. It's really important that it's not just a creative role anymore, it's full-funnel.

[In the past,] someone ... did the brand building and someone [else] did the client; I'm dealing with the customer directly and I think the CMO now has become the CBO and almost like the chief talent officer in a lot of places.

When it comes to the financial aspect of it, because clearly that's a hugely stressful part of the role, what are the areas in which CMOs are putting the most budget and/or attention? What do you think a lot of CMOs will be focusing their budgets on?

I think they'll be focusing on AI and how to actually get better insights and be more efficient with our marketing teams. I don't think anybody's going to lose their job because of AI. I think they're going to lose their job if they don't know how to use AI. We can become much more efficient and hopefully waste less dollars in marketing and pivoting quickly.

I gave a talk at the ANA actually recently called "How Advertising Could Save TV"; what people are realizing is the subscription obviously is not going to pay for all the content that we want to make. So basically, this is declining cable, subscription, and SVOD services. That's why you see so many other AVODs pop up.

And so, I think the more people that can understand and measure that are going to be in both the advertising and the marketing space, because it's also about the customer experience. So not only do you want to make it more valuable to advertisers, you want to make sure that that experience is great for somebody so you don't show them 20 different ads for a vacuum in the same pod and then they actually don't like your brand.

Depending on if you're B2B or you're B2C, I think that marketing and content people are probably going to continue to be hired. And then tech [people] probably more so. I really believe that you can have the great tech and great data, but if you don't have somebody that can be your partner to understand what insights to pull from it, it means nothing. Those are the two places that I would think that investment people should put their investment in.

Personalization is clearly changing right now and is becoming more and more important. You're essentially talking about how to become more consumer-centric, and how to reach the right people at the right time. As such, how are CMOs innovating consumer segmentation and personalized content marketing?

One hundred percent. We've been using AI for a long time already; we've been using artificial intelligence (AI) to try to figure out what audience to go after from a data perspective. That will continue to grow. I also think that we're moving into advanced audiences, to your point. So, people are moving away from just reach, frequency, and demos. You're throwing so much money out the door when you do that because [not every] 18-to-40-year-old man in New York is the same.

Really getting down to how we can reach the right person at the right time [has] gotten so much more sophisticated now that hopefully the experience is better. We'll continue to use AI — and as it continues to get better, we'll keep iterating it into plugins that we have that will make our job hopefully easier.

Why do you feel that CMOs are the "voice of the customer" as opposed to another role, such as, say, the CEO?

I'll use an example of Hulu. The CEO, and usually the COO, and the ad sales person, really cares about the bottom line. And a lot of times they're not thinking what's better for the consumer, but we're the ones who are talking to the consumer. We hear what their reactions are and we have done enough research, [so] we know what they like. When I was at Hulu, there would be [questions like], "Should we add another ad to a pod?" I would say, "People are going to get really frustrated if there's four ads per pod because I've done the research and understand potentially that that could put somebody over the edge when they watch six hours of content."
I have a thing I tell people: It's not what you say your brand is, it's what they say it is. We're the ones listening and we're the ones that understand that engagement. We're responsible for that relationship, keeping that relationship, and mining that relationship.

How are CMOs contributing to revenue and sales growth?

We look at what's working and what's not working — and how can we do more of what's working and [less of] what's not working.

How long do you test pieces of creative? How long would you say you've tested a concept until you realize it is or isn't working?

At Netflix, when I was there in 2012, I was testing 80 different pieces of creative at the bottom of the funnel. I'm working with a client right now that is testing seven different pieces of creative in social and then helping that drive what's on TV; it's much cheaper to develop seven different smaller commercials, and then figure out what works than it is to do one commercial that costs $2 million — and then you run it forever on TV and you don't really even know if it worked. Now we can throw things out there for a week. After two day or three days, you can make a decision and [then] optimize and change.

A big thing moving forward is premium video. A lot of people think premium video is expensive. Premium video to a 16-year-old is not linear television. TikTok is premium video to them. So, I think it's really redefining what we consider to be good and compelling, and [use] outcome-based creative that actually is going to drive sales [as] we have so much more information now that we can attribute across the entire journey. We can test in some of these much cheaper areas and then utilize that strategy in some of the more expensive areas where it costs a lot to fail.

A big thing with me is continually optimizing and learning. What do I know more that I didn't know yesterday? How am I better today than I am yesterday?

What would you advise for companies with smaller budgets?

You don't need that much money to test in social. Find ways to figure out how to partner up. It's about finding creative ways to get thought leadership out there [and] to get engagement on channels that don't cost very much money.

Is there any advice or insight you'd like to share based on your experiences?

One of my goals is to make the CMO and the CFO best friends, because if they're at odds, then they don't trust each other. So basically, we can use data and tools to prove that what we're doing. And so, people will give you more money if you can show it's working. When I talk about showing a revenue center or looking like a revenue center, you need to have that trusting relationship there.

I really do believe that advertising has always saved TV; the only reason you were able to make television was because of the soap operas, because they had product ads or integrations. And it hasn't changed. We all tried to [be] like Netflix and Hulu; we realized that our subscription dollars alone will not pay for this content. So, it's up to us to get this right, meaning that advertising is not going away. And we as advertisers and marketers just need to be prepared to be able to take this opportunity and make it a better experience for consumers.
That means good creative, [and] it means the right creative and the right person — and learning if you don't. [Teams need to] understand how to harness AI to make it better versus avoiding it.

The views and opinions expressed in Industry Insights are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Joanna Fragopoulos is a director of editorial and content development at ANA.