CES Panel: CMOs Discuss Top Priorities, Trends and Change

Growth priorities, game-changing technology, engaging customers, building brands, and the trends and challenges that keep marketing execs awake at night were among the topics discussed by three of Forbes Top 50 CMOs during a C Space panel at CES, moderated by editor of the CMO Network at Forbes, Jenny Rooney. Aimée Lapic of Pandora, Susan Vobejda of The Trade Desk, and Deborah Wahl of Cadillac work in different markets but face similar challenges as they break through old models, explore new ways of reaching and engaging audiences, and balance the potential of personalization with privacy.

Vobejda (below, second from right) of The Trade Desk, which has become the fastest growing demand-side platform in the industry by offering agencies, aggregators and their advertisers best-in-class technology to manage display, social, mobile, and video advertising campaigns, keeps the fundamentals at the top.

“Brand, brand campaigns, value proposition — the core fundamentals still have to get done,” she said. “Start with the strategy for what you want to achieve and what you hope will be the customer experience. We get smarter and optimize as we go. We build and we do. Can’t spend six months figuring out the problem.”

At Pandora, Aimée Lapic (above, second from left) said the goal is “to give their customers another reason to stay on Pandora.” In December 2018, the company launched its Podcast Genome Project, a spoken-word variation of its Music Genome technology. According to the company, it uses a combination of machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, and collaborative filtering methods to determine listener preferences.

“Pandora invested in a platform that allows us to be super personal across platforms and outside Pandora,” she said, noting that they have thousands of targetable audience segments.

Deborah Wahl (above, far right) faces not only a changing media landscape, but an automotive industry and a legacy brand undergoing enormous disruption and change. “This year we will see a new inflection point,” she said. “We have to go back to the customer and the human element. Let’s get rid of all of the extra stuff that is not delivering good experience.”

A big question for the traditionally big spender in broadcast is “how much of our media spend should be general when we have the ability to be direct?” When the car being sold is able to interact with its driver “sort of like your companion,” it becomes even more essential that content and creative helps you tell your story across platforms. “How to tailor a message that resonates takes magic,” she said.

Of the challenges, Vobejda added that “Marketing has a marketing problem. The organization did not fully understand what marketing could do for the company.” Strong imagery and an imaginative campaign turned into a rallying cry.

The panelists reflected that even as the value and scope of marketing grows, very few CMOs have a seat on executive committees of major corporations.