Martech Heroes: John Ellet on the quest to experiment with tech

By Olivia Atkins | Writer

Stein IAS


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November 29, 2018 | 5 min read

As the year draws to an (almost) close, we’ve been looking back at some of the individuals who have made a mark on the martech industry. To coincide with The Drum’s celebration of martech’s unsung heroes at the B2B Awards in New York, we’ve been profiling some of the leaders in martech to reflect on the biggest changes in the industry and find out where they see it going.

Joining our burgeoning list of other Martech Heroes is chief executive officer of digital company Springbox, John Ellet, who shares his thoughts on the development and evolution of martech.

Is AI taking over creativity?

It’s no doubt that technology has shaped the world of advertising, transforming the speed at which marketers communicate and their methodology entirely. Yet according to Ellet, marketers need to better adapt to new technologies to ensure a smoother workflow. Rather than perceive AI systems or machine learning as a threat to creativity, Ellet suggests that creatives should use the technology to create optimum results and avoid humans doing the tediously-repetitive work.

Martech Hero

Martech Heroes: John Ellet on the quest to experiment with tech

“There’s a real marriage between the creative community and AI if we can understand how to embrace it,” said Ellet. “Marketing technologists – the ones that are most interested in seeing where AI is headed – are finding that it's not a separate thing to master; it’s turbo-charging the software they already use. They just need to figure out how to use the smarter tools. “

For him, it is not about seeing AI as a threat but as another tool that we need to learn and master.

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Learning new tricks

But obviously new technologies require learning new skills. Ellet cites setting clear objectives as the biggest lesson to learn; “With AI systems, we’re going to have to get better at setting goals and understanding the implications of the goals that you pick,” he said. “That’s a discipline a lot of marketers aren't used to.”

He also thinks learning to manage customer data properly will be critical. “It’s a relatively new skill to be able to have the tools to connect all these data silos that we have and we’re starting to look schizophrenic to our customers. We need to tie all these platforms together, tie all the data together to appear as if we’re one company interacting with the customer in a coherent way. That’s a skillset that’s coming and needs to come fast.”

Other skills to work on, according to Ellet, include entrusting the AI to deliver the creative without pre-approving it and selecting a suitable personality for the AI system so that it interacts smoothly with the consumer.

“The biggest challenge is not a technical challenge,” said Ellet. “But organisational silos. Technology is getting to the point where it can orchestrate a more coherent interaction with your customers across multiple channels however departments are still set up around digital advertising, email, websites, and social media.” For him, if organisations can better connect their tech offering and understanding by creating the right organisation around it, then it should be fairly easy to get off the ground.

Future of martech

Looking into the future, Ellet reckons that marketers will continue to focus on account-based marketing and connecting marketing and sales efforts.

“One of the things that we'll see more of in 2019, is some consolidation,” he predicted. “Some of the bigger players are starting to bring pieces of that puzzle together already. I'd be particularly curious to see what Salesforce does in that arena. I think that’s one thing to watch out for from a martech evolution point of view.”

He concluded that smarter orchestration technology will continue to develop, which will improve automation and personalise the consumers’ experiences. But also warned brands not to forgo their brand story and message in their quest to experiment with technology.


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Stein IAS ( are the B2B Originals, the first and leading global brand-to-demand agency for B2B enterprises worldwide. Stein IAS drives brand progression and revenue growth through highly original and effective creative ideas combined powered by data, intelligence and disruptive technology. Stein IAS has been named a B2B Agency of the Year by the ANA 10 of the past 13 years––and has won the WARC Effectiveness Award (Gold) for B2B the past two.

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