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Dentsu CEO On 2023’s Marketing Mindset, Changing CMO Role, And Understanding The Consumer.

The economic slowdown has caused advertisers to focus more on performance-based marketing. But that doesn’t have to come at the expense of brand building. “We have some clients that are probably trading off some of their brand spend and brand effort in preference of performance right now, but not exclusively,” says Jacki Kelley, CEO of the Americas, and Global Chief Client Officer of advertising giant, Dentsu. “Most are really trying to figure out how you work up and down that spectrum in order to ensure that you've got brand love at the top, which naturally begins to drive performance at the bottom of that funnel.”

Kelley, whose multifaceted career encompasses leadership roles across the media spectrum, including at USA Today, Yahoo, Martha Stewart Living, and Bloomberg, talked about today’s marketing mindset, among other topics, in a conversation with iHeartMedia Chairman and CEO Bob Pittman in the latest episode of his podcast, “Math & Magic: Stories From the Frontiers of Marketing.”

Pittman noted that many advertisers that pulled back on advertising during COVID-impacted 2020 learned “that when they started spending again, it cost them a lot more money than if they had kept spending through the downturn.” Kelley said case studies have proven that dynamic as far back as the recession of 1982. “You had some of the best brands launch during that time, or grow during that time, as a result of their spending into it,” she said. “Over history, we've seen that continue to be the case.”

Along with balancing brand building and performance marketing, Kelley said she is optimistic about the changing role of the chief marketing officer. Brand CEOs at Dentsu clients increasingly view marketing “as an investment, as a growth driver, not as a cost,” Kelley said. She credits that to CMOs and their ad agencies embracing data “to prove the value of every dollar we spend.”

Another evolution Kelley has observed is the expanding role of the CMOs at Dentsu clients. “You see CMOs becoming growth officers, you see CMOS taking on sales and taking on a data scope, far broader than what they used to. And I think that speaks to marketing as a growth driver, not as a cost.”

Understanding Consumer Mindsets

Shifting the conversation to American culture, Pittman noted how a different mindset has taken hold in middle America, one that is less skewed to the east and west coasts than it was in previous decades. This shift, Kelley said, requires marketers to invest time and resources into truly understanding the consumers they are trying to appeal to. “We spend a ton of time really diving into what is unique about this individual, what do they have in common, what is different,” she explained. “We still do ethnographies to really go deep and understand the psyche of this consumer so that we can be more specific in how we communicate with them.” It comes down to relevance, Kelley added. “It's all about individuals feeling like you know them, like you understand them and the channels that they rely on.”

When the conversation turned to AI, Kelley said there isn’t a meeting she attends where it doesn’t come up. Dentsu uses AI to work faster and more efficiently, so it can direct its human resources to tasks that only people can do, she explained. Still the thinking at the agency giant is that AI requires some human oversight to make sure it is giving the best decision. Dentsu is “just beginning to fully understand how AI can be used for enterprise business applications,” Kelley acknowledged. “I think that's pretty game changing for agency holding companies. What we have to be careful about is there's just as many downsides to it if we're not careful. And I am an advocate for proactive regulation.”

Listen to “Jacki Kelley: ‘Don’t be afraid to zig and zag’” HERE.

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