'We have to focus on the data': Adobe on the industry's short attention span

As consumer expectations continue to escalate and average attention span shrinks, developing a thoughtful and cohesive advertising strategy that integrates with every step of the customer journey, across the entire organization, will be one of the biggest opportunities for advertisers in 2019, says Adobe.

This is because customer experience has earned more attention in boardroom conversations in the past year than ever before, according to Paula Parkes, the director of marketing for enterprise, Asia Pacific at Adobe.

She says it is not down to a single touchpoint execution as it goes beyond a memorable advertisement, an award-winning campaign, or a great product, which is the sum of all engagements an individual has with a brand.

“Making it personal, being consistent, measuring and adjusting are important because increasingly, brands are acknowledging the “empowered shopper” and the unrelenting consumer demand for convenience, immediacy and exceptional experiences,” she explains to The Drum, noting how consumers today are not just dictating what they want but also controlling when and how they want it through self-service models.

“Consistency in customer experience across every touchpoint, both online and offline, build trust and credibility. This is a mindset that has to be built into the organization’s DNA, and the same goes for advertising content.”

She continues: “Gone are the days where advertisers can only sit and hope for the best after an advertisement goes live. With the advent of digital advertising, every interaction can be accurately tracked to provide the feedback to improve engagement and results.”

To achieve this, she says personalization is key when it comes to nailing the right messages and experiences that matter at different touchpoints. That requires a deep understanding of customer behavioral data and the ability to tap into that engine to deliver personalized (advertising) content at scale, right down to individual preferences. This will be better than blasting a one-size-fits-all digital campaign or talking to cookies on blind browsers.

In addition, a central platform can pull together customer data across siloes and create unified audience profiles that are accessible by all campaign teams and on the other hand, share common marketing assets and advertising copy across the entire organization. This will ensure that marketing messages are always served in a meaningful manner, consistent with all other interactions the customer is having with the brand.

Finally, AI-enabled analysis tools can help advertisers track campaign performance in real-time, identify abnormalities, derive useful customer insights. Advertisers will be able to adjust campaign strategies and metrics without delay, improving the content relevance and overall audience experience.

Biggest challenge for Adobe in 2019

Adobe’s biggest challenge and opportunity in 2019 is data, says Parkes, as the software giant has access to more data than ever before, which means it is spending more time data crunching to be data-driven and understand how it is impacting the bottom line of the business.

She points out it is easy to be distracted by a million ideas, new channels, or the latest social trends. That means Adobe needs to step back from time to time, look at what the data is saying, and then focus on the big things that are driving the business by owning and executing them well.

“The marketing landscape today is very different from what it is just five years ago. The rise of new media, social selling, new technology – such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and voice – have pushed the envelope for more innovative content and dynamic experiences,” explains Parkes.

“At the same time, the explosion of digital has also added pressure on the marketing department to deliver measurable results at every touchpoint, and increasingly to market by the numbers.”

Strengthening Adobe’s marketing department

In the face of digital disruption and a changing marketing landscape, Parkes says Adobe’s APAC marketing team has to constantly evolve to meet the pace and demands of digital as well as its unique markets.

She sees the marketing team as a conduit, the backbone within the organization that ties together different teams and business units to bring customer experience under one unified umbrella. That means it needs to build bridges not just with the global team but also with each country in the region by breaking down siloes and speaking to the customer in one voice, and at the same time, delivering the message with local and cultural relevance.

“Digital disruption is a big word. What it really means is that customers today are spending more time interacting and transacting with us online, on their mobile; and searching for information on the web. The customer journey is no longer linear, and decisions are made in shorter timeframes,” she adds.

Adobe is also upskilling its marketing department with digital and data-driven skills, as well as skills like agility and creativity. It is hiring more data scientists and digital specialists and reorganizing traditional marketing functions into agile teams focused on specific projects and encouraging them to share between different markets and socialize their ideas.

This is done so that the more cross-functional teams interact and collaborate, the more they can learn from one another, and continue to innovate and deliver results, explains Parkes.

Relationship with agencies and management consultancies

Adobe still sees value in working with its agencies even as more brands take the marketing function in-house. Brands like Made.com have spoken about how they keep creative work in-house.

That is because as a lean team, Adobe works very closely with its agencies locally, across APAC and even globally, says Parkes. It looks to its agencies as its extended marketing team who are strategic partners who share deep domain knowledge on our business and interests in driving towards a common goal.

“Agencies that are purely transactional or only perform a particular task, hardly benefit the client anymore. As the pace of business keeps running faster, we need agencies that have a holistic and cross-geographical mindset, teams that can bring value to the table, challenge the status quo and tell us when something is not working,” she explains.

“I see the client-agency relationship of the future as one that is tightly integrated, where information is shared seamlessly, and its contract model likely moving from a deliverables-based model to one that is time and materials-based.”

Management consultancies also play a large part, together with traditional agencies, in offering Adobe creative, marketing and advertising platforms to their clients.

Parkes acknowledges there have been heated debates over the roles that management consultancies play versus those of creative or ad agencies but argues that with business strategies becoming increasingly customer-led, and customer experience management (CXM) a key focus across functions, the roles played by both consultancies and agencies are fast converging.

“Content and data are the two foundational elements for CXM. Creatives and digital teams now have a bigger role in affecting business bottom lines, while business decision-makers are pressured to adopt design-thinking in their problem-solving approaches to enhance customer experience,” she explains.

“Whether with consultancies or agencies, the future of marketing is increasingly digital and data-driven. Even today, many marketers are still struggling with personalization at scale and across all touchpoints, devices and screens. While people see technology as an enabler, there are still issues gaining access to the entirety of customer data across all touchpoints a customer has with the brand. We have been talking about a 360-degree view of customers for the past decade, but in practice, many marketers are still grappling with data issues.”

She points out there is also an opportunity to nail and achieve personalization at scale by making sure that content and creative agility are part of the brand’s CXM approach. She says to be future-proof, marketing must go beyond its original boundaries and into all functions of the business, integrating closely with digital and creative teams to execute programs and content at speed and increase accountability in the business through data-driven measures.

This is part of The Drum's Marketer of the Future coverage for 2019, where we look at how brands are future-proofing their marketing departments to drive growth for their businesses.