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Lauren Walker, chief operating and data officer, Dentsu Aegis Network EMEA

Lauren Walker

Path to power

My data career kicked off with political polling and survey research, which led me to the Clinton/Gore White House, after which I joined ChoicePoint (now a division of LexisNexis) in a marketing role. While in that role, I was promoted to build a new identity solution for the public sector.

 

Through that experience, and ever since, I’ve been bringing together data, technology and strategy to solve business problems. I also learned how to turn data from a raw asset into a monetisable revenue stream.

 

I left ChoicePoint to attend Yale University School of Management, where I received my MBA. Upon graduation, I embarked on a ten-year career at IBM, with senior roles in global marketing, sales leadership, consulting and M&A. Some highlights include leading the MDM business, launching the big data and analytics business in Europe and creating the Watson customer analytics partnership with Acxiom.

 

In my current role, my team and I are helping clients monetise consumer data by organising the right data and the right technologies with the right processes. In my additional capacity as EMEA chief operating officer, I’m driving our operational excellence transformation, which includes being the business lead for the Salesforce CRM rollout.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

Moving the CDO role from a back-office IT function to a front-office product and strategy position, supporting the internal client-facing teams and clients with their data transformations. In 2017, I founded the Dentsu Data Labs; DDL is a shared service of data professionals who bridge between traditional media data capabilities (market research) and digital media and adtech capabilities (web analytics and programmatic).

 

Partnering with the executive team, I brought together the top market research, programmatic, web and digital analytics, media data, data science and data engineering experts across all agencies together. Now in its third year, this team operates globally.

 

Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

I received the book Gutsy Woman last Christmas. I have been inspired by countless stories of courage, perseverance and tenacity. Having worked in the White House, Hillary Clinton embodies these characteristics, which is inspiring, but my parents have been my inspiration; the fearlessness and optimism they instilled, keeps me going.

 

Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

The rate at which the marketing landscape continues to evolve due the rate of digital adoption by consumer and enterprises is outpacing government regulation and consumer comprehension of the impacts of these changes.

 

This is especially true when it comes to people’s data and how it’s used for marketing purposes. One of the most prominent areas of this intersection is GDPR within the European Union, but last year we saw the US privacy legislation and regulation come into line with the EU. The pace of this impact will change the way we use data in marketing and the vendor ecosystem.

 

What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

Accurate performance media campaigns require a significant amount of data to ensure that they deliver on the proper metrics. Post GDPR, a sizeable amount of this data is now “trapped” inside the walled gardens. And although these platforms have enabled marketers to do campaign performance analysis at an audience level through their properties, firstly, there is no organisational body able to audit the attributes used to create the audiences; and secondly, Google, Facebook and Amazon lock brands into the walled gardens’ own GDPR compliant email CRM repositories to buy against the same individuals and look-a-likes within its walled garden.

 

Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

The Dentsu Aegis Network Digital Society Index 2019 research shows we are facing tough questions about these changes. Some 64% of people we surveyed said misuse of personal data is the number one driver of distrust, followed by concerns about automation and the pursuit of innovation for its own sake. The big opportunity is to move from talking about data ethics to living data ethics. Beyond being a topic for legal and privacy experts, all of us in executive data and tech roles need to push for the data ethics building blocks, such as diverse teams and ongoing digital education for all.

 

What is the biggest tech challenge your clients face in ensuring data is at the heart of their digital transformation strategy?

Getting the right partners, no single partner is the answer. I’ve been on all sides of the table. A new ecosystem is forming. The walled garden giants (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft), who have the capital, market share and expertise, have built global identity graphs on massive cloud platforms.

 

Adtech and martech cloud giants (Google, Salesforce, Adobe) have global in-housing footprints aimed to help companies gain control of the data on their owned estates (eg ecommerce platforms). The landscape will contract to fewer credible players. The global systems integrators will continue to deploy technology, but only the agencies have the critical marketing domain expertise.

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