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Lauren Walker, Chief digital and data officer EMEA, Dentsu Aegis Network

Path to power

 

My professional lifetime in data started with survey research, which led me to the Clinton/Gore White House. I left to join the information industry as a marketer at ChoicePoint (owned by LexisNexis). I built our marketing strategy organisation, rising to director of competitive strategy, which involved advising on data product and corporate strategy to the CEO and board. At ChoicePoint, I learned how to turn data from a raw asset into a monetisable revenue stream.  I left to attend Yale University School of Management to further refine my business acumen with an MBA. Upon graduation, I embarked on a ten-year career at IBM with senior roles in global marketing, sales leadership, consulting and M&A roles. In each one, I grew my expertise in data and analytics from a systems integrator, product management and client delivery lens. I internalised how technology serves as pipes for data flows, which allowed me to create the processes and business strategies necessary to monetise data for my clients.  As chief digital and data officer EMEA at Dentsu Aegis Network, my team and I are monetising consumer data through audience and consumer strategies that drive brand loyalty and preference by organising the right data,through the right technologies with the right processes.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

My highlight is being empowered by my CEO to drive substantial change at Dentsu Aegis Network. We are entering year two of the internal data transformation in EMEA, or what I call the data offence strategy. Last year, I built and this year am mobilising the centralised shared capabilities of our data (people and technology) to drive new revenues for us and to improve our ability to execute for our clients. It is an incredible journey to date and continues to be an awesome opportunity to drive for the optimal business model for data-driven marketing.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

I remind myself to listen to my gut rather than a job coach or senior exec mentor on career path.  Most of the jobs that I’ve held in the last five years have not been jobs or titles that existed before. I share this with many of the Millennials who work for me and they tell me the same thing.  The most important thing is to know the discipline that interests you - marketing, finance, operations, law - and, from there, make sure you either understand the technology that is changing that discipline or the data and processes on which that discipline depends. That focus and expertise will take you far as the landscape continues to change. It was a very volatile year from every angle, so, no, it didn’t turn out the way I expected. From a data perspective, we saw a lot of improper use of data that has caught the eye of governments, the global press and, most importantly, individual consumers. There is still a long way to go for consumers to understand easily how their data is used and monetised.  I care deeply about this subject. Those of us in the advertising industry, in particular, need to use our expertise to be ethical and moral leaders in the use of personal data. We also need to educate our families, communities and society of the ethical and moral use of personal data.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

I expect to see the continuing cycle of companies who try to centralise their data competency within IT rather than taking an holistic view of how data is in fact a front office and back office asset and responsibility. It is a cycle I saw endlessly at IBM and continue to see among some of my clients. I truly believe data needs to be viewed as data offence (business unit ownership with P&L) and data defence (technical governance and security as a cost centre). This is playing out in the CMO organisation, whereby the most critical data asset is “consumer/customer” and exists across a myriad of on-premise, cloud, internal and external systems. The CMO needs to monetise the touchpoints of this consumer to deliver on the brand promise and improved products. The GC and the CTO want to make sure this consumer is met with at least a GDPR-compliant experience. I do think this is why we are seeing a number of clients lean into marketing technology stack providers like SalesForce, Adobe and Google Marketing Cloud.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

For more junior-level positions, we try recruit individuals with the right raw materials and cultural fit whom we can train and nurture to grow within. A career path in data is not always clear in the bigger more established organisations, but because we are a very agile and fast-paced organisation on the cutting-edge of digital and data we have lots of opportunities to move within different brands and roles as well as through senior positions.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

My passion is advertising and marketing so, using that lens, I am most optimistic of the power of data and analytics to transform the brand-consumer relationship. Brands who deliver relevant and meaningful content to consumers will not be viewed as annoying advertising, but rather as a warm embrace and reminder of how much a consumer really likes or loves a brand.  We use lots of data and analytics today in performance marketing to drive a buyer through a digital funnel, but there is unlocked potential of data in content and creative. Effectively using all the data a brand can collect from its value chain, both digital and offline, to understand what about a brand (not necessarily a brand’s product) makes people engage and re-engage, that is what I am optimistic about solving.Agency

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