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Tony Miller, formerly VP, digital marketing and CRM, EMEA, The Walt Disney Company

Tony Miller

Path to power

In my 28-year career, data has been central to my role. I first cut my teeth in data working in a traditional direct marketing agency. This is where my love for data began. Being in a traditional “below the line” agency (back when there was a line) it was here where I learned the value of data and the insights it brings through: A/B testing, segmentation, customer lifetime value, recency frequency vale, return on investment…the list goes on.

 

Data made me curious - asking more and more questions. I liked to prove what worked (and what didn’t) by unlocking why, so we could do more of what worked, less of what didn’t, and increase ROI by tweaking, refining, and optimising. I learned how to tell data stories – breaking down the mystery of it so that our non-data community fully understood the power that data unlocked.

 

After spending 23 years agency side (across multiple agencies), leading digital and data transformation across various sectors, including charity, financial, FMCG, retail, and travel and leisure, I moved client side. I’ve spent the past five years transforming how The Walt Disney Company uses data to connect our customers across our multiple brands and multiple lines of businesses.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

There are a few achievements that make up my proudest moments. From developing the first of its kind gift catalogue for charities, to overhauling the CRM journey for easyJet (of which other travel brands have now emulated) to transforming and aligning strategy on how data is collected, stored, and used across 26 markets in EMEA for The Walt Disney Company.

 

But more than just specific campaigns or individual strategies, I’m most proud of the teams I’ve led and the output we’ve collectively accomplished through creating a culture of curiosity, having a solution for everything, and teaching values of support and acceptance.

 

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

Personally, my parents, for teaching me to work hard, to treat people fairly (and as you would want to be treated), and to stand up for what is right.

 

Professionally, my bosses. I’ve been lucky enough to have leaders who have been my mentors – giving me the space to succeed but also being there for support and guidance.

 

And Walt Disney himself; a man before his time, who has stayed current and relevant for almost 100 years. He best sums it up when he said: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” My mantra is to always be curious, because being curious allows your mind to always be open to new things.

 

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

Many of the key digital and data trends for 2019 revealed an acceleration of pre-existing trends, but breakthroughs in AI and machine learning have moved slower than anticipated. There was little evidence of ‘new’ trends and opportunities that emerged last year. Potentially, this is due to a knock-on effect of the big disruptors in the marketing landscape, such as GDPR, that took priority in 2018. VR/AR still isn’t close to mainstream, and hyper personalisation remains aspirational.

 

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

I expect more scrutiny around accessing data for marketing. As laws get even tighter around data privacy, cookie and third-party data will be harder to access (or become obsolete). Marketers will need to be reliant on first party data - more than ever before - and will need to have strategies for personalisation in a cookieless world.

 

This will be the year AI and machine learning become mainstream. The need to build out customer data platforms that connect desperate data-sets will continue to grow, so brands can create connected consumer experiences and provide a true 360-degree journey.

 

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

The biggest opportunity with the advancement of data and technology (for marketing) is to provide consumers with content that is truly meaningful, based on what they want and need. Predictive analysis will become more relevant, allowing for personalisation in a way that’s truly relevant, especially as we move forward in a world that is becoming stricter around its use. AI, coupled with machine learning and a connected technology stack, will allow us to personalise at scale, becoming more efficient with our marketing dollars.

 

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

There are a handful of challenges that we must be one step ahead of. With the pace of change in technology and the constant updates in regulations, we as leaders in the data and technology space must make sense of the laws and regulations around data and privacy to both the marketing community and executive leadership so that they fully understand the dialogue and debate. It will be essential for us to cut through the “regulatory” noise in a meaningful way (breaking down the jargon) so that the business understands the importance, practicality, and value data brings to the business.

 

We also need to champion the need to keep data and technology central to the heart of digital transformation. With more scrutiny around collection and use of data, we need to work harder to break down what this means, so that we keep the marketing community aligned to the strategy and executive leadership aligned to continued investment in technologies.

 

Finally, we need to hold providers to account. As AI and machine learning become mainstream, technology advances, and the walled gardens grow, we need to be on top of the different partners and their solutions so that we can easily and economically align the disparate providers. This will ensure our digital transformation strategies are joined up across multiple platforms and solutions.

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