August 30, 2017
CMO Q&A: Joanna O’Connell, MediaMath
What led you to a career in marketing? Was it an early decision or a more recent event?
I’ve been in the space for over 15 years and started my career in the digital agency world as an integrated media planner/buyer ,so I’ve been able to see first-hand how marketing has evolved over the years. I love math, and I loved being exposed to – in those early days of digital advertising – math playing a foundational role in marketers’ decision making. And that was more than a decade and a half ago! The critical importance of math has only grown since then.
Have you always been a marketer, or did you train for a different role prior to that (and if so, what)?
Technically, I’ve come full circle in my marketing career. I started my career as a media planner/buyer, which was an invaluable experience. I really cut my marketing teeth there. After working my way up, then launching ATOM Systems, Razorfish’s programmatic trading desk in 2008, I became a research analyst at Forrester and AdExchanger and am now CMO at MediaMath. I reached a moment in my career when it became clear it was time for me to move from connecting with the industry from the outside to shaping it from within. That’s what propelled me to take my current role in the fall of 2015 – to move from thought back to action.
If you could pick out one thing you find most challenging about marketing, what would it be?
Treating customers as people. We get so caught up in personas, buyer types, in data and targeting that we often forget to treat them like we would ourselves want to be treated as consumers. What compels you to click an ad or open an email? What needs do you have that a product or service could solve? What resonates with you emotionally? What do you love in ad experiences? What’s just downright annoying or creepy? This is how our customers are thinking. And so should we marketers.
How important is it for anyone joining your team today to be comfortable with data-driven marketing?
It’s very critical. Marketing done right is powered by data, but it’s also about finding the right place and time to show a marketing message that’s relevant. Smart marketers realize that it goes beyond just having a lot of data — it’s about having the right data, extracting signal from noise. it’s about granular segmentation, yes, but it must be smart, meaningful segmentation. Targeting is great, yes, but are you finding those targets in the right moment? On the right device? With the right element of your marketing story in their buyer journey?
What’s the single most important component of your marketing stack (by description and/or vendor name)?
We believe in eating our own dog food and so are big users of our own technology! Our own omnichannel platform, our data management platform, our proprietary audience data asset, our own curated, premium media environments – we use all of these in concert to deliver great marketing and support our sales team’s efforts. In short, these tools let us communicate with our own prospects and customers across channels, formats and devices throughout their buyer lifecycle.
If you weren’t a marketer, what would you be?
I’m an animal person, through and through. I’d be a dog trainer or volunteer full-time at an animal rescue. Spending all day with animals sounds pretty darn good to me.