Marketing Roundtable: It's good to share

Senior brand marketers and agency heads joined Steve Barrett in New York City for this Ketchum-hosted roundtable to discuss how the purview of today's CMO has grown.

Senior brand marketers and agency heads joined Steve Barrett in New York City for this Ketchum-hosted roundtable to discuss how the purview of today's CMO has grown to include content, analytics, operations, and the integration of all marcomms disciplines.

Rob Flaherty
, CEO, Ketchum
Deirdre Bigley, global head of marcomms, Bloomberg
Emily Callahan, CMO, ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Ben Edwards, VP, global communications and digital marketing, IBM
Mike Germano, CEO, Carrot Creative
Peter Krivkovich, CEO, Cramer-Krasselt
Adam Ostrow, chief strategy officer, Mashable
Jonathan Perelman, VP of agency strategy and development, BuzzFeed

Content ownership
Steve Barrett (PRWeek):
How are brands managing the transition to become content owners?

Deirdre Bigley (Bloomberg): Bloomberg has an enormous amount of content, but to find that content and put it in context so that it is distributable on a regular basis is not something we've been set up for. It requires a massive change structurally. It's almost a whole new world that brings together lots of different pieces.

The other half of it is the ability to get the company's mind wrapped around the fact that this is a people-intensive thing. We're no longer spending money externally. We're spending it on people.

Ben Edwards (IBM): I'd agree there's a challenge around content management and governance. We haven't traditionally had the discipline around that as marketers and communicators. If you don't have that foundation, you end up with a lot of inefficiency, duplication, and overlap.

Sixty or 70% of the buying happens in self-directed mode. People are learning all the time. They have full access to extraordinary masses of information and there are no channels. People call them “multichannel” or “omni-channel,” but that's the same as saying no channel. There are networks and we need to be able to intercept the people with the right content at the right time. It's very difficult to organize that if you're predominant thought is a channel thought.

The other issue is quality. We take a very strong brand view of the experiences we create, so there's a quality-control issue where we don't only want our branded communications to represent IBM in the right way, but we want IBM-ers to show up and represent the brand in the right way.

But how do you have quality control around a very federated model with hundreds of thousands of IBM-ers and each of them averages over 100 connections?

Emily Callahan (ALSAC/St. Jude): When I first started at St. Jude, they hadn't really done any brand research, so we set up marketing metrics and did brand research. We discovered that we weren't very relevant. That shocked people.

How could we not be relevant? Because the conversation was wrong – and I told the CEO that when he hired me. We focus on children who have cancer and, sure, everybody has been touched by cancer. However, I suggested we change the story. Everybody on the planet has been a child, so let's focus on that angle. What if your childhood was robbed? Let's not rob these children of a chance to grow up and have those magical moments that make life great. We have fundamentally taken it all the way down to the base story and that's what we do. We're storytellers.

The best thing: I don't even have to architect it. I have these amazing children who tell their life stories. The result has been phenomenal because if you put that content out there, people react to it.

We're also not as channel focused anymore. I've been trying to teach people about content as a great story. If the great story is there and people can relate to it, it will do its thing.

Barrett (PRWeek): PR has always seen itself as in that sweet spot in terms of earned and media, so how are PR firms helping clients take advantage of those opportunities?

Rob Flaherty (Ketchum): We are reshaping our business. It goes back to looking at it from the perspective of the client or customer. One way we frame it is through what we call a new definition of news.

People still seek out stories in a publication, online, or on TV, but there's less of that and more of the story coming to them. We think the definition of news now is “something important enough to find me.”

This all means we're not creating the client's story. We're trying to divine their sharable story. We're not so interested in being the source of the content. We're interested in curating the content that people are already creating about the brand and accelerating the sharing of that. It means sublimating your ego – your brand ego or your agency ego.

The best creative may not come out of an agency or a brand. It might come from the consumers themselves. We have to be smart enough to see it. We've done a lot of campaigns now where we cede control and let the story be told by the consumer or the b-to-b customer and then light a fire under it. It's led to a significant revolution in hiring. Community manager is the number-one new job title at Ketchum, but there's also the director of conversation analytics, media buyer, media planner, videographers, and so on. This is all an opportunity and it's a tailwind for our business.

Adam Ostrow (Mashable): At Mashable, our success came from building distribution on social networking sites and then creating great content that people want to share on social media sites. Our business model is helping brands become content creators and then helping that content find an audience.

The way we do that has evolved, as well. We publish the content, but now, thanks to our recent redesign, we're now able to give that content more prominence. Instead of just buying a display ad, an advertiser can say, “We want this piece of content to show up 50,000 times on the national homepage,” and we can do things like that.

There's also the co-distribution piece. When you talk about certain major global brands, such as Samsung or Amex, they have their own distribution networks of millions of people on social sites, so we also look to team up with brands increasingly on the distribution piece, so when we produce a video for a brand, it might show up on their YouTube channel before it even shows up on Mashable. We also let them leverage the content on their channels with their audience in addition to sharing with the national audience.

Jonathan Perelman (BuzzFeed): When it comes to “getting content creation right,” there's a very large network of the social sphere that if you get it wrong, they will let you know and will be very loud about it.

For example, we broke the story that John McCain was endorsing Mitt Romney for president in December 2011. About an hour later, a very large news organization said they had breaking news that McCain was endorsing Romney. They called it an exclusive. Twitter blew up saying they didn't break this, BuzzFeed did.

On the issue of quality, people want the best quality stuff, but quality alone doesn't make something happen. In fact, you often see that what goes viral is not stuff that is of ultimate quality.

Great content finds its audience. They might not even know they wanted it, but they are really happy when they see it.

There's also a really powerful network of people out there that are bored on line at a Starbucks or at the grocery store. What do they do? They take out their phone and look to consume content. Maybe they check email. Facebook gets a huge percentage of traffic from mobile. Maybe people launch social applications. They seek content to pass the time and they are often looking for what people are sharing. That could easily be a piece of branded content.

Social media has become the water cooler. People used to hang around the water cooler to discuss things. Now they hang around social media.

Callahan (ALSAC/St. Jude): You need to know when to post content, who to post to, who to share it with, and who works with those super users. However, there's also the issue of sustainability. It's one thing to be a pop culture hit of the moment, but how does a brand create content that has a longer life. Tweets and Facebook likes are great, but we need to get people to emotionally adopt our brands and engage with them.

Ostrow (Mashable): We often see ourselves as part of a brand's larger campaign. Samsung, for example, came to us at the end of 2011 with the objective to be seen as a leading challenger brand to Apple.

Mashable created a series of content around the idea of people starting to see Samsung as a leader. We create content with interviews of influencers at events such as CES or SXSW or perhaps an infographic around the Oscars or Grammys about the most used buzzwords on social media. That was all very much in alignment with what Samsung was looking to achieve as a brand. If you think about where Samsung is today, they've differentiated themselves from the HTCs and LGs of the world, thanks in large part to that type of message and depth.

Peter Krivkovich (Cramer-Krasselt): On one hand, content is such a powerful tool. On the other, it's the biggest black hole there is. There are millions and millions of pieces of content, most of them irrelevant or redundant.    

However, people are finally waking up to the fact that content is actually a strategic play. Too many clients want to get into it for the sake of getting into it, as opposed to trying to figure out where it fits in with the whole context of their entire plan. That is the next big place – where's the strategy?

Mike Germano (Carrot Creative [a new-media marketing agency]): We started in 2005, so we're not early adopters. The only thing we know is digital. Our failure comes when we're asked to be way too traditional. People think of us and they assume we do banner ads, but we've actually never done a single one.

A couple things scare me. Quality control is important in some parts of news, but brands or agencies that use quality control, all they're doing is they're setting a bunch of checkboxes, checkmarks, and rules that get in the way of innovation. 

Our work with Red Bull has been wildly exciting. They come out with a movie that they spent $2 million to make and it sold on iTunes for $6 million. They have a regular line of clothes and their athlete-only clothes. They sell jackets for $3,000 and people buy it because the brand resonates.

At the end of the day, Red Bull doesn't talk about its energy drink. It talks about itself as a lifestyle brand. Not every brand can do that, of course.

People always ask if Facebook is going to be around for much longer? They don't understand that it's already so embedded into what is happening and the experiences people have. For the longest time, Facebook has been the other search engine and its recent announcement of Social Graph highlights that.

Now, every single article that's going through Facebook is being indexed, as are likes and interactions by every single person and all their friends, so when you finally have that time to search it, Facebook is going, “We know who you like, what you like, and this is the thing you're going to like the most.”

This user experience is more highly based on tech understanding. The companies that are really taking off are the ones who are making the investment in understanding where that information tech is actually going and then leveraging it the correct way.

Edwards (IBM): We've created a data service where we can actually measure through to conversion. We can measure through to conversion to revenue. If, for example, an expert blogger adds a little tag on the end of their URL to their blog, we can measure right through to conversion.

We've seen three, four, or five times conversion rates to, for example, becoming a marketable response. People are more willing to do that if they've come from these sorts of engagements. People are a lot more willing to fill out our forms, which tells you something about the power of this and the nature of trust that gets built through these interactions.

Companies that are content

Original content has become a vital tool in brands' never-ending pursuit to establish authentic connections. It gives consumers information they can use and enjoy while helping brands craft their messages with more precision. The three examples below epitomize the creativity and effectiveness of original content creation.

“Last year, Adidas created a mini online documentary series called The Return, which highlighted the recovery of NBA player Derrick Rose (pictured), who tore his ACL in April 2012.

The YouTube series included four episodes for fans to watch and it led to fans using the hashtag #thereturn more than 200,000 times from August to December.

Only months prior to Rose's injury, the company signed the Chicago Bulls star to a promotional deal worth $185 million over 13 years. The series turned what could have been a marketing disaster into a clever vehicle to keep Rose top of mind while he was out.

In 2012, the company announced its Content 2020 marketing strategy, which is focused on raising brand awareness and engaging with consumers around the world through original content. All of the content spans Coca-Cola's social channels, mobile, advertising, marketing, and communications.

A key example of this new strategy was unveiled last November when Coca-Cola launched its unique take on a corporate blog, turning it into an online magazine called Coca-Cola Journey. It is a storytelling platform for fans, where they can read about brands, communities, entertainment, health, CSR efforts, and more.

Investment management is not the easiest sector to gain buzz about. However, Vanguard's “Vanguard at the Movies” campaign, which spoofs classic films to convey what using its services doesn't feel like, not only helps extend the brand, but the company also uses it to cross-merchandise its existing video content on YouTube.

Upon its launch last year, the spoofs became the most watched videos on Vanguard's YouTube channel and more than doubled its traffic. And of those viewers, half of them stayed on the site to learn more about the brand through other video content.

What's the big idea?
Barrett (PRWeek):
Define the big idea. Are brands still concentrating a lot of resources on it?

Krivkovich (Cramer-Krasselt): We must redefine what the big idea is. For our company, the product is the idea, but our business is insights that change behavior. The big idea is more about who owns the outcome. Unfortunately, a lot of people will hitch onto a superficial insight or even a very cool idea that they can execute, but very few people really take responsibility for outcome.

The pressure to show ROI is so huge that you must define who will own that outcome in the entire spectrum of various communications services with which a company deals. Whoever owns that outcome then should be responsible for all other people getting on the same page.

Flaherty (Ketchum): The big idea gets up and walks around the room. The minute you hear it, it just captures your attention. If you take that into the digital and social world, it's an idea that lights a fire and mobilizes a movement because other people care about it.

When it comes to content, one of our clients always asks us, “Will she care and will she share?” Content without links is irrelevant. It's much better to curate content our customers and consumers create, understand it, have the wisdom to appreciate what it is, and then help amplify it. It's not so much about us having to be the origin of the idea. It's us appreciating when someone else has an idea that gets up and walks around.

Edwards (IBM): We motivate our employees to curate. Our clients want that more than anything and that's what differentiates us.

If you think about what we do in marketing communications, we're often looking for representations of that knowledge. We need to motivate our employees to do that so we capture that knowledge and then – on a selective basis – allow it to be shared.

Germano (Carrot): It's less about the big idea and more about the big reaction. For any content we've helped create with brands, it's a reaction to something that happens that gets them a tremendous amount of more views and interactions organically than anything that was thought out prior.

Flaherty (Ketchum): It's worth noting that there are different brands with different equities they're trying to build. On the one hand, for a lot of brands the standard of extreme virality and most views is the win. For other brands, the volume by itself is not the win, but rather the quality of the volume.

Bigley (Bloomberg): There are certain things that some brands can do that others can't. We can't all be those “out there” brands. For Bloomberg, that would just be very inauthentic. The key is being very clear on what you're trying to do and what you're trying to get out of every marketing effort.

Another key point is piecing all the different marketing and communications functions together effectively. It's becoming the job of the company to be the aggregator of all these different pieces, but it's hard to do because there are such specialists out there that are really good at what they do. You want to work with all these different entities – the Carrots, the Mashables, and so on – but you must be completely clear on why you're doing it and what you're trying to get out of it. It's my job to make sure the agencies we work with aren't going in their own spaces. And that's tough because they like doing their own things and putting their own fingerprints on it. If the company isn't being very clear with everybody on exactly what their brand is about and exactly what they're trying to achieve, it's a mess.

Germano (Carrot): That's a great point. In fact, social is still so new, no one knows what they're supposed to ask for. I would suggest the key thing is to become an integration specialist and to actually learn how to integrate with these different companies.

Callahan (ALSAC/St. Jude): For me, there are two fairly simple objectives. We have to raise money and drive awareness. How do I do that? Being the great coordinator. First, the CMO has to find great people internally and then find the right people for the right type of campaign we want to drive. 

We don't really have AORs, per se. We work with various agencies that augment a gap we can't fill. Sometimes it's more cost effective to do it that way or maybe they know the space better, so I'm paying for that expertise. However, I've still got to be at the center of it all, knowing how to pull the strings and who to pull in and who to listen to. As CMO, I have to know a little bit about all the disciplines and I've got to know when to employ the right one. Then, for the big ideas, I must identify the best channels to spread them across.

Ostrow (Mashable): Some of our more successful campaigns have actually been increasingly working with PR agencies, where a brand will come to us looking to reach a specific type of Mashable reader. One of the beauties of social media is that ability to target and reach certain audiences.

A good example is American Express, who came to us through their PR agency looking to reach female small business owners. We created a series of content. One of the most successful posts we had in that series was basically 40 inspiring female founders to follow on social media sites. The type of content female entrepreneurs, females that work in tech, which are a minority, wanted to share with their communities and get them really excited. Now, thanks to how analytics have evolved, you can say, “Yeah, this post got 5,000 shares and is successful.”

You can also see that, among the people that shared it, 85% of them were females in the 18 to 34 demographic. That really means something when you're going back to the client and explaining to them that this campaign really delivered for them.

Age of analytics
Barrett (PRWeek):
Many predict that CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs in the not-too-distant future. What does the era of big data mean? Can you really measure what you're providing and convince clients that it's working?

Flaherty (Ketchum): What intrigues me most about big data is not so much the measurement end. The great explosion in the use of analytics is really on the front end – to get to the insights of what will really work. It's the unbelievable ability now to develop relationships at the individual level.

The power of analytics is such that you can now track what everyone is doing, predict what they will be interested in, predict what content they will want to grab, forecast what purchasing decisions will be most appealing to them. Our industry must become much more capable at harnessing analytics and big data on the front end.

Data has caused shifts in power over the years. First, ad agencies had a lot of power when they were grabbing more insights through things such as quantitative and qualitative research. They would go to the brand and be able to tell them what they should do. Power then shifted to the brands. Then we saw the shift to the retailers…to Walmart and other aggregators of big data.

Now, it's an opportunity for the data to, once again, define who the major players are. As such, brands and agencies must get more adept at harnessing that. That's why you see the explosion in CMOs forming a partnership with their CIO to really be smarter about data.

Edwards (IBM): This cuts to the heart of why these volume statistics are meaningless. The model going forward is a model of the individual, whether that's your client or your employee. There's a virtual circle between being able to engage through media that are able to collect data and then inform the model and then come back and optimize the experience. If you do that well and you do it according to a notion of what your clients and employees are looking for from you, you get deeper engagement and a stronger business.

Callahan (ALSAC/St. Jude): My three main partners are my SVP, the interactive team head, and the CIO. We spend the most time together because we are trying to harness data.

We're implementing a CRM system. A lot of the data comes from just knowing your people best and then how you want to dive into them. We still struggle to get to the data and there isn't a great off-the-shelf solution for everybody, but we need that data, so we spend a lot on technology on the marketing side.

Perelman (BuzzFeed): I made a bit of news at CES when I said that scale is the wrong question because it's really about engagement. Data is obviously very important, but by itself it's worthless. You must gain insights from that data. The real challenge is how are you going to turn data into insights for whatever your particular KPIs are.

Bigley (Bloomberg): You have to get the technology in order to mine that data and it's an incredible job to actually pull all that together. It's like high math for a beginning marketing organization. It's hard.

Perelman (BuzzFeed): I spent six years at Google where it was basically all about data. There is no question that the CMO will be spending more on technology, but the CMOs might be more mathematicians going forward, but you need to get an insight. You need to get some kind of value out of it.

Krivkovich (Cramer-Krasselt): Data is not the issue. There is an enormous amount of it. It's data that is actionable that is really at the crux of it. The biggest problem is that people start without a clear vision of what they want that data to do. What answer are they looking for? If you don't have that, you just get overwhelmed with all this data.

We've increasingly been looking at analysts that come out of Wall Street. Why? They look at data very differently than how marketers do. They mix data. They take an enormous amount of both qualitative and quantitative data along with real market situations and combine all those to decide who they're going to short and who they're going to long. 

It's a very different mindset of how you look at data, but it gets to something that is actionable and it gives you a perspective of what's next.

Flaherty (Ketchum): You need to know what you're trying to accomplish with the data, what needs to be harnessed, and you need to get the insights that will create engagement, but it is engagement at scale, whatever your scale is. And it needn't be an infinite scale, just what is needed to accomplish your goal.

Germano (Carrot): There is a huge trend in large corporations that are purchasing small start-ups for the reason of collecting all the information, the competitive information.

My belief is there's going to be a real trend in, for example, RedLaser. You scan a barcode and it tells you how much that item is. Well, it's public knowledge you bought that company. It's not public knowledge who the other companies are that had invested behind that. There are these consumer products that are being created for users to see and track all their interactions because it provides some type of service… service in numerous different ways, maybe service that will tell you what's wrong with your car.

You'd be surprised by what companies are behind the scenes investing in this because not only do they want to know more about their company, but they want to know more about other companies out there. For the longest time, brands were building Facebook fan pages for their competitors' products. It was done by some user and then they were the ones that were getting all the data.

There are companies thinking very strategically that are purchasing user behavior and products to get information – not only about themselves, but about everybody else.

Ostrow (Mashable): Some of the most compelling content we see produced by brands is very much in line with what Mike is talking about. They have a product that does one thing for consumers, but on the back end, it's collecting all this really fascinating data.

A good example is dating site OkCupid. People use it to find dates, but they also publish all this fascinating data about things such as the type of user-profile pictures that work best.

Edwards (IBM): Marketing is moving closer to the actual experience itself and the partnership between marketing and technology is becoming clearer. The mindset of the modern customer is: “I want to get into those experiences as quickly as possible. I want to try and then I want to buy.” 

It goes even deeper. We make stuff in technology and we must do that well and think as technologists, but it's really about exposing the nature and the function of the corporation and building in delightful, easy-to-use interfaces that get people into using you as quickly as possible.

Barrett (PRWeek): If marketers become mathematicians, does that take the creativity out of marketing and communications?

Bigley (Bloomberg): As we get closer to the customer, we have to know exactly what they want and how they want it. That takes creativity. It's really about the math hitting the creative.

Edwards (IBM): Everyone around this table is probably hunting for a creative technologist. They're the gold dust in all of our models.


Enhancing the experience
Barrett (PRWeek):
A major element in the constant creation of content is the sharing part. How is that changing the way companies market and operate?

Flaherty (Ketchum): We're fascinated by the merger of marketing and the experience. CMOs must take responsibility for the experience people have with their brands every day. That experience is, by far, the greatest manifestation of brand, so what are we doing if we're not really playing a role in the experience?

Technology, rapid feedback, and radical transparency are the greatest gifts to marketers because it's a constant real-time feedback loop that allows you to fix the problem. I use the “Mind the Gap” sign in the London Tube as the icon of this. What is the gap between our brand promise and our brand delivery? What am I doing to close that gap and make the experience everything it can be?

Bigley (Bloomberg): Marketing has to work its way into the ability to affect other departments and bring the brand into those departments. Marketing is the brand experience. It can bring brand experiences to any touchpoint within a company.

Callahan (ALSAC/St. Jude): A C-level executive today no longer has the luxury of just knowing their space. In order to be a great marketer, I need to know just as much about our operations. I think very hard about the people we hire and how they fit in and how they bring our brand to life. I also must go out and experience, touch, and see it through the end-user's eyes.

Flaherty (Ketchum): How about the patient experience? Is there a chief patient experience officer you align with?

Callahan (ALSAC/St. Jude): It's interesting. One of my teams is solely focused on patient relations. They are constantly getting to know the families and their stories. They're actually hybrid employees. They're in the marketing team, but they have a special designation at the hospital, almost like the healthcare workers.

They are my hardest team, too, because they deal with so much. I need to help tell their stories in an authentic way while still dealing with their realities of patient care. This is where transparency is so important. It's not just what we're called upon to do as brands and telling that authentic story. We also need to know every aspect of the business to be true marketers. That's why data is so fascinating. We need it. You can't just craft a message in a vacuum.

Barrett (PRWeek): A trend we picked up on at this year's CES was brands basically publishing content themselves and getting it directly to their stakeholders. Getting in front of the media was not their sole focus of being there. How does a media company exist within that? What value can the media company add?

Ostrow (Mashable): The distribution is really important. Lending our credibility to their story is really important. People still – and probably always will – have a bit of a preconceived notion of content that comes directly from a brand.

When brands work with a publisher such as Mashable, we create something that will resonate with our audience, which is exactly who the brand is trying to reach. And getting back to the partnership on distribution, not only will that content live on Mashable, but also on the brand's properties, their social stream, and so on.

Germano (Carrot): Traditional media outlets can't afford to cover things in long depth now. They are increasingly leaning toward reaction. The BuzzFeeds and Mashables are good at covering the micro content.

Every major brand now is finding its own niche and is becoming a media outlet. More importantly, though, they are also becoming the venture capitalists and are making bets on being able to do that. American Express is a good example. They're now creating the iPad app magazine just for information for women entrepreneurs. For years, they made all those niche magazines about travel. They owned it. They were telling the story with it. And people aren't looking at that for a journalistic approach to where they should vacation. They simply want to get some content from people who have insight. They are willing to put a little time into it and they're not looking for that super unbiased approach.

Challenge and opportunity
Barrett (PRWeek):
From content creation to data gathering, the chief marketer's role is evolving daily. What challenges and opportunities does that reality pose?

Ostrow (Mashable): The biggest opportunity, clearly, is that brands are recognizing the need for content. However, it must be noted that shifts in technology are now such that people are consuming content on mobile devices more than anywhere else and some of these traditional ways of marketing don't necessarily translate to the mobile and connected-device experience. That said, content is inherently cross-platform, so it will continue to be an investment.

The biggest challenges are control issues, which we take very seriously. Our editorial team will work with the brand to figure out what its messaging is, what its objectives are, what themes it is trying to convey, but at the end of the day, we know what resonates best with our readers, so getting brands to trust us on that and make a meaningful investment is a key factor for us.

If you want to content with us, you have to do a minimum of at least five posts, and we're hoping for more than that. We want to make sure what they're doing is part of a campaign that makes sense for more than just one post, but makes sense for five posts, and hopefully, makes sense for months, if not years, to live within Mashable.

Callahan (ALSAC/St. Jude): The big challenge for us is getting data and better understanding who we're talking to and what motivates them. In addition, mastering content. You can actually have too much of it, so we really focus on communicating simply, regularly, and in a meaningful, authentic way.

Perelman (BuzzFeed): We tend to overcomplicate things that don't need to be overly complicated. That's a major challenge and it requires a bit of a mind-shift. I use Roger Bannister as an example. He was the first person to run a sub-four-minute mile in 1954. Within the next three years, 16 people broke the four-minute mark. It wasn't because of new Nikes or Gatorade. It was sort of a mental model that he helped people achieve. Developing this mental model of the brand as content creator and finding the right voice can be very powerful.

That leads to the opportunities. There is so much opportunity, certainly for PR agencies, in the experience part. BuzzFeed focuses on shares, how to make content that people want to share and consume. The peer-to-peer notion of something being shared is so exciting. As more and more brands come on-board, there is so much potential to redefine the way content is done.

Germano (Carrot): Both our biggest challenge and opportunity are tied into fear. We probably do a poor job sometimes of telling potential brand partners what we're really trying to accomplish, but they're also afraid of what we're trying to do. They try to hold onto more of their services and they don't want to allow us to integrate.

Fear, however, has also been our best opportunity. We have fun brands that are willing to take massive risks – and that's all we play in. Risk forces you to innovate.

Krivkovich (Cramer-Krasselt): The biggest challenge and opportunity is integration. Everybody talks it, but very few people really do it and most people come to the table with a bias.

Our business model is built on integration, but we can do it a lot better. The biggest thing we constantly push is owning the outcome as opposed to the output. The output is important, but it's the tip of the iceberg. Who owns the outcome? And if everybody begins to own the outcome, then you don't come to the table with just your own bias. You come in as a building block.

Bigley (Bloomberg): Bloomberg is just beginning this journey into the digital communications space. Finding the right conversation, the relevant conversation, is the challenge.

We're just starting to understand that Bloomberg can have opinions on things that are going on in the world from a financial perspective or the ramifications of decisions that are made on the financial world. Getting that voice right, getting that conversation right, and then spreading it through all of our communications channels is job one right now.

Edwards (IBM): Shortening the cycle of time between collecting the data, extracting the actionable insight, and optimizing the experience, the client experience, is certainly one of our biggest challenges.

Harnessing the power of our employees' networks is a big opportunity, and I would add our business partner networks and client networks to that. People trust “people I know” and “people like me.” There's an enormous opportunity to harness that in the right way, in a way that's comfortable for our employees and our partners.

Flaherty (Ketchum): The biggest challenge for marketers today is a lack of alignment, given that so much is required now. Beyond integrating marketing communications is the need to shape the experience.

Brands are being marketed in a minefield, so you need integration with people who are savvy about issues. You don't market food separate from obesity issues. You don't market pharmaceuticals separate from cost and healthcare reform and access issues.

As for opportunity, I see so much more energy around being a CMO because of data, because of transparency, because there's an appreciation that the experience is the brand. What a great opportunity that is to expand your influence within the organization, to be the chief alignment officer. So what is a challenge ends up creating this giant door for CMOs.

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