Jones Group, Priceline execs: Marketing and technology should be holistic group
October 2, 2013
New acrobatics between CMOs and CTOs
By now it is like a broken record: Marketing and technology need to work together more than ever before.
That is why an Advertising Week session last week in New York paired technology and marketing executives from The Jones Group and Priceline.com. The harmony was surprising.
“It’s a new world,” said Greg Coleman, president of Criteo and moderator of the session. “Moving forward, the marketing head needs a partner to collaborate with to set up queue, to decide what gets funded and what does not.
“Living in the ad-tech world, the need to understand the CTO is as important as understanding what’s on the mind of the CMO,” he said.
Keeping up with Jones
Michael Hines, vice president of ecommerce at The Jones Group, said that in the old days, companies made a lot of their own technology that took longer to go to market and was not as reliable as things are now.
But as the software became better, the code became better, and the need to change it, or iterate, became more frequent, Mr. Hines said.
“The CMO was the CTO’s worst enemy,” said Brett Keller, chief marketing officer of Priceline.
“To be effective marketers, we need to push the product and data to third parties, and I can’t do that without the CTO,” he said. “The entire organization changes through this partnership with technology.
“There’s less process now. We’ve got a built-in infrastructure. There’s no typing the specs and waiting three months. We’re more agile and more cooperative. We don’t do anything without each other.”
Milton Pappas, president of ecommerce at The Jones Group, said that the closer partnership helps prioritize the CTO’s workload.
Marketing and technology can sit down and figure out which are the incremental opportunities, and then the seven-figure opportunities, Mr. Pappas said.
Five years ago, it was a free for all.
Mr. Hines said that marketing and technology at his company are even making hiring decisions together.
“We’re becoming a more holistic group,” he said.
New name of the game
Priceline’s CMO and CTO also collaborate on new hires. They talk about open positions and interview each other’s candidates to ensure their teams work well together and complement one another.
“I’m now looking for someone who can understand the marketing lingo, not just someone who’s good at coding,” said Mike Dilberto, Priceline's CTO.
“We’re interviewing each other’s candidates, consulting on positions and the skills needed,” he said.
“We’ve even been moving someone from marketing to sit with technology and vice versa. It’s really just a more effective organizational structure.”
When thinking about testing new advertising technology, Priceline’s CMO said he works very closely with his technology counterpart.
“Setting up one partner and one test is a lot of people power,” Mr. Dilberto said. “We’re limited in what we test. Companies get out of hand and partner with too many service providers. Ask the ones you’re using who they’d recommend.”
Mr. Pappas agreed that companies need to be careful about with whom they partner. Identify who they have worked with in the past, he advised, as well as key metrics. Then when the list is trimmed to two or three players, test them out, he suggested.
While traditionally the agency handled all of the selection of service providers, brands now are cozying up to technology companies.
At Priceline, the staff manages online marketing, instead of having an agency handle it.
“Pack your own shoe,” Priceline’s Keller said. “No one cares more about your marketing dollars than you do.”
MARKETING AND technology at both The Jones Group and Priceline collaborate to build the product roadmap. They decide together what to do more and less of in the next year.
“We know the top products,” Mr. Hines said. “You know it because of revenue. Then we go to the top of the list of the smaller things and add that on our to-do list. But what’s hard is a multiyear vision. Getting a roadmap that works toward that is hard to do.”
For his part, Mr. Pappas said he relies on Mr. Hines to help him prioritize which projects are most important.
“He helps me figure out the incremental stuff to drive business, the next big idea, where do I put my eggs,” Mr. Pappas said.
This article first appeared on CMO.com. Reprinted with permission and adapted for style.
Giselle Abramovich is senior and strategic editor at CMO.com, the content marketing arm of Adobe Systems. Previously, she wrote for outlets such as Digiday, Mobile Marketer, Mobile Commerce Daily and Direct Marketing News. Reach her at or follow her on Twitter @GAbramovich (https://twitter.com/GAbramovich).
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