We Asked, Marketing Execs Answered: If You Could Solve One Challenge in the Advertising Business, What Would It Be?

The creation of a successful advertising or marketing campaign requires a tricky formula. In a multi-platform world, it includes inventiveness, risk-taking, and luck. And the decision-makers often face a myriad of choices, as we've been exploring in the Future of Advertising Insight Center.

To shed a little light on what it takes to manage this process, we asked a group of top CMOs and advertising executives — from Xerox, Leo Burnett USA, Cleveland Clinic, Adobe, and Nike — a question: If you could solve one challenge in the advertising business, what would it be?

Read on for their answers:

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Christa Carone - Chief Marketing Officer, Xerox Corporation

The challenge we're seeing is that "paid" is no longer the hero in the marketing mix. "Earned and owned" are playing more prominent roles than ever before. To really engage in conversations with stakeholders, brands are developing and curating quality content that cuts through the clutter. The spots and dots only work if they're tightly woven into a consistent and ongoing narrative from and about the brand.

No doubt, advertising agencies can produce the smartest creative, but their businesses were not built to deliver within the speed and cost parameters required for "always-on" content marketing. Brands like ours need highly creative content — lots of it. Advertising agencies have highly creative people — lots of them. But does the Madison Avenue business model survive their clients' demands for content at scale delivered in much more nimble and efficient ways?

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Susan Credle - Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett USA

Let's reverse the trend of advertising agencies becoming vendors and get back to the business of being trusted, respected partners. We give away brilliant thinking because it does not come with hard costs. How do you put a price on a set of words that defines a company or a brand? Creative ideas often appear cheap, even free, and yet, the best ones are priceless. Therein lies the tension.

Unlike a lawyer who charges by the minute, or the FTE (a tragic acronym for full-time employee that has crept into our business), a great idea can happen in a flash. Time spent solving a problem does not define the value of the solution.

Project-based assignments force agencies into the vendor business. But a valued partnership embraces long-term growth and thinking. A partnership doesn't come down to math. A partnership is not just a transaction between two companies. A partnership is about mutual support and success. The global economy, not just advertising, would be far better off if we would get back to truly embracing partnerships for mutual success.

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Paul Matsen - Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Cleveland Clinic

The business of advertising is fundamentally changing as digital and mobile platforms become the primary way of connecting with consumers. Content marketing expressed through social media, apps, search, and e-mail marketing must be integrated with mature platforms such as print media, television, and digital display advertising. The challenge facing the advertising business and marketers is how to effectively and efficiently organize for this new, nimble era of content creation.

Traditional agency models often lack the depth of business knowledge and cross-platform skills to address this need. Internal marketing and communications departments are also poorly equipped to move with the speed and teamwork required. To be successful in the digital, content marketing era, marketers and agency teams are going to need team members who can create and shape a narrative and be part of an agile, multi-platform team that executes in real time. While this may sound like a huge challenge to overcome, we witnessed during the Super Bowl how smart marketers are responding to events in real-time to build their brands.

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Ann Lewnes, Chief Marketing Officer, Adobe

Advertising has long had an accountability issue. There's that old adage: "I know half my advertising works, I just don't know which half." This cliché is obsolete...or at least it should be. The answer is digital. As more advertising has moved to digital, and with the tools and technology we've got at our disposal, advertisers are well positioned to tackle this challenge. We now have critical data and insights about how our campaigns are performing and we know more about our customers than ever before.

This will only happen if marketers accelerate the shift to digital. Gartner estimates that today most marketers are spending, on average, 25% of their budgets on digital. We spend 74% at Adobe. And we invest heavily in digital marketing technology. This has enabled us to determine the budget we need to hit our revenue goals as well as model the ideal media mix. Throughout a campaign, we measure the impact of every element of the mix and optimize the campaign based on what we learn. There are no excuses anymore for not knowing how your advertising is working.

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Davide Grasso, Vice President of Global Brand Marketing, Nike

Brand storytelling is both an art and a science. As marketers, we need to make things simpler and remember to romance the story along the way.

When communicating a brand's story, it's important not to complicate the storytelling by adding friction through unnecessary layers. To avoid this, it's critical to ask the following: What's the best way to unleash strong ideas and engage consumers in your story with a relevant and authentic experience? And why should they care? If you've satisfied these answers honestly, your story can end up being the one people love and, more importantly, remember.

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