Tag Archives: CMO Strategy

Science, creativity, and contradiction: the making of a modern TV ad

3 Oct Indeed TV Ad

In this age of ubiquitous technology, it should be quick and easy to create a 30-second TV advertisement. How complex can it be? The answer: shockingly hard if you do it right. To get TV advertising right requires a near impossible mix of science and creativity – disciplines that are in many ways diametrically opposed. It requires small teams that protect the purity of great ideas and big audiences that provide the feedback required to avoid mistakes. Great ads requires creative ideas that strike the most personal human chords with an appeal that spans cultures and continents.

Among all of these contradictions, the core challenge of advertising is that you are delivering a message that nobody is looking to hear. When it comes to both TV and online video, the ads are the price of the programming and the competition is steep — in the U.S. the average person is exposed to more than 5,000 brands and ads every day.

And many companies are organized to systematically dilute the power of great ideas. Creative advertising requires powerful ideas, emotion, and beautiful execution. Science requires the sort of measurement and optimization that slowly erodes the punch out of many creative endeavors. Keeping performance and creative impact in balance is difficult. Too many powerfully creative ideas are weakened by endless rounds of negotiation, revision, and compromise.

Embracing these challenges, today our team at Indeed launched the first ad in our latest global TV campaign. The ad, titled “what / where” in reference to the highlighted Indeed search boxes that are featured throughout, will begin airing today in the United States. Additional versions will start to appear in 6 other countries over the next few weeks.

This is my favorite Indeed ad yet — for me it strikes the right balance between emotion, inspiration, and performance. Like many strong ads, the final version is very similar to the first concept. We’ve  worked hard to make sure that our tweaks didn’t erode the power of the creative idea.

While the creative idea was the starting point, we had four practical things we wanted to accomplish with this ad:

  1. Performance: Indeed’s mission is to help people get jobs. After family and health, career may be the most important dimension in our lives. We know that if someone hasn’t heard of Indeed, we won’t be able to help them get a job. We advertise to drive awareness and carefully benchmark for each ad the cost per new person aware of Indeed in the labor force.
  2. Salience: We hope people will think about Indeed when they think about looking for a job. We want people to know that we’re the largest job site in the world, that we are a search engine for jobs (not a job board), and that an incredible # of new jobs are added to Indeed every day. We look for ads that build memory structures around these ideas.
  3. Global Relevance: We’re working hard to build Indeed into a global brand. To this end, we look for campaign ideas that get to the heart of human emotion, hopefully transcending culture and geographic boundaries. Practically speaking, we try to design TV ads that can be adapted to work in many markets around the world.
  4. Effective across multiple media channels: We talk about TV but we run adapted versions of our ads on youtube, full episode players like Hulu, other digital video networks, and social networks like facebook. This ad, in particular, was designed to work with or without sound.

And as we developed the ad, we did three interesting things:

  1. Protect the creative idea: By keeping our internal advertising teams small and by ensuring that we have minimal processes for internal review, we try to limit the number of people designing, reviewing, and refining an ad. Our goal is to keep the creative idea as intact as possible as we bring the ad from concept to launch.
  2. Transparent development: In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of transparency as a core marketing value. With this belief, we’ve made our entire advertising development process completely open and transparent within Indeed. Any of our 3,000+ employees can see all of the 500+ ad ideas we’re working at any time. We solicited company-wide feedback on the four most promising concepts prior to the final round of edits. The feedback was phenomenal — it helped is make the ads more relevant to more people around the world.
  3. Pre-launch testing & benchmarking based on emotion: Finally, when we have an ad that we think might meet all these requirements, we test and measure the emotional reactions to the ad in markets around the world. We then benchmark this measured emotional response against a database of ads to model likely performance. Only if it tests better than all of our previous ads will we put it into market.

So that’s it — the difficult process of creating a good global TV ad. And even with all of that work and preparation, we won’t know how many people a new ad can help to find jobs until we release it at scale globally.

The three core values of successful marketing teams

7 May


I recently read that the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer is 24 months, up from 18 months not very long ago. While that’s good progress, it’s still much shorter than other c-level positions.

Why is CMO tenure so short? It often comes down to the credibility of the marketing team. Too many marketing organizations erode trust by focusing on activities instead of results, by taking credit for things that can’t be proved, and by building walls between their teams and the rest of the company. Furthermore, marketing is such a broad discipline that there are always many possible marketing solutions to any business problem. The breadth of viable approaches makes for an infinite opportunity for misalignment between CMO’s and their leadership peers.

In this environment, what becomes important for CMO’s is how we build teams that work well with the rest of the organization. To this end, here are the three values that we have developed for marketing at Indeed:

Value #1: Test many things. Fail often. Stay grounded in the data.

When it comes to both our marketing and the product, we are continuously surprised at what works and what doesn’t. Companies that measure learn quickly that it’s very difficult to guess what will have the biggest impact on the business. Results will continually surprise all of us. What we do know is that if we continuously test lots of different ideas, we’re more likely to find approaches that really move the business.

One of the best examples of testing vs. intuition came from when Indeed product management finally tested the words on the Indeed job search button that allowed users to create job alerts. The original button — which said “save alert” — had been used for years but never tested. Product management came up with six new options to test: Sign up, get jobs, save, subscribe, activate, and send me new jobs. Two interesting things happened with the test: First, every single tested option outperformed the original best guess of the team that originally created the feature. Second, the highest performing option, “activate,” took all the experts by surprise. With a 12.8% increase in job alert creations from that one change, Indeed was able to send more than 1/2 billion additional job alert emails that year.

At Indeed, we’re lucky to have incredible access to data and a culture that embraces testing. So what do we test? Everything. Here are a few illustrative ideas of things we test: video ad creative for salience and recall, headlines for effectiveness, sales presentations for conversion, every word and every visual on call-to-actions for app downloads, the subject lines of email for click-through rate, the creatives for promotions for conversion effectiveness, and just about anything else where optimization can have an impact on performance.

To make testing easy, we’ve established a campaign lab that helps with the orchestration of tests supporting all of our functions. With more than 500 documented tests completed since the beginning of the year, we encourage our teams to test many permutations of tactics, messages, and creative approaches. The vast majority of these tests fail but the benefits of the few that succeed more than cover all of the expense. By staying grounded in data and encouraging our teams to fail, we discover impactful ideas and approaches that we otherwise never would have attempted.

Value # 2: Be transparent and avoid marketing ourselves

As marketers, we only get the full-impact of measuring and testing if we pair it with a marketing culture that looks objectively at activities and results. As a marketing team, there is often a temptation to apply our craft to our own results. Nothing diminishes our trust faster than spinning results or sharing only the good. On the other hand, few things can increase trust faster than being transparent about our struggles and failures.

Not marketing marketing is one of the hardest adjustments for new employees to make when they join our team. Although it is difficult, we ask everyone to be objective about the impact of our programs. It’s easy to find a metric that went up and to call a program a success. We try to be careful to not “spin” our programs to look better than what we may really know. We look at all of our results with a critical eye and are careful to present results impartially inside and outside our organization.

Being transparent requires us to make data on our tests and performance available as broadly as possible. By sharing data and insights and avoiding marketing our own work, we all learn the same lessons together. This makes us better. When we hide bad results, we lose the opportunity to share in the learning and risk repeating the same mistakes.

Over the last month, we’ve even set up mechanisms for anyone in the company to see and provide feedback on new advertising at all stages of production. In many companies ads are worked on secretly by a small team and then unveiled with grant fanfare upon completion. By sharing our work broadly at all stages, we get useful ideas, feedback, recommendations that helps us make all of the work stronger.

Value # 3: Our most powerful impact will come when we work through other teams

One of the things that I worry about most is that as our company and team continues to grow, we’ll lose some of the fun and impact to a monotony of meetings, complex approval processes, and uncoordinated projects spanning disconnected organizations.

For this reason, we’ve structured marketing to embed directly with the teams that have the center-of-gravity for every initiative that we support. When we’re the center of gravity, we ask other teams to embed with us. With a shift of our traditional online marketing teams to a growth marketing model, our teams are spread out and embedded directly with the product and engineering teams for the products we’re working on. As we support sales, we’ve centered our marketing planning efforts around our country marketing managers who sit with the sales teams and directors we support all around the world.

For everything we do, we ask where the most appropriate center of gravity should be — whether that is sales, client services, product, engineering, international, marketing or any other team. We then sit and work with those teams together as one team focused on solving problems together with as much day-to-day collaboration and as few giant meetings as possible.

While these three values may not be unique to our marketing team, they are part of a deliberate effort to avoid the silos, hype, misalignment, and politics that undermine the credibility of too many marketing organizations.


Revenue Marketing: 6 Essential Rules for Success

30 Oct

Over the last decade, I’ve helped to build B2B revenue marketing teams spanning from a few marketers supporting a few sales people to global models supporting 10,000+ sales representatives. While the challenges of different organizations are often unique, I think there are a few key revenue marketing rules that transcend B2B organization size.

In my last post, I walked through an overview of B2B Revenue Marketing. Now, here are my five key tenets to making sure that your revenue marketing programs are as good as they can be:

(1) Focus on revenue: While this seems incredibly obvious, most B2B marketing organizations focus on other things. While leads and pipeline often lead to revenue, focusing on leads and pipeline metrics can create conflict between marketing and sales. The most important metrics for revenue marketers are (a) the amount of marketing-sourced revenue driven by marketing programs and (b) the effectiveness of the marketing investment (ROI). While pipeline goals are important to see how thing are progressing — they are not a substitute for revenue goals. In my experience, lead goals such as the quantity of leads or the number of qualified leads tend to be completely counterproductive.

(2) Sign-up for accountability: Revenue marketers should be paid like sales people. They should have a  quota based on the level of investment that they control and a significant portion of their pay should be variable based on performance (i.e. revenue). Great revenue marketers should be highly compensated. the key to this, however, is true marketing accountability for revenue and results.

(3) Make marketing & sales as a single integrated function: Every dollar spent on revenue marketing is a dollar that could have been spent on sales. For revenue marketing to make sense, it needs to provide leverage to the sales team and allow the sales organization to scale cost-effectively. If you are a young company and want to grow sales at 100% or more per year, you’ll need to get the right balance of sales and marketing investment to support hyper-growth. No matter what your goals are, it’s important to look at marketing and sales as a single continuous function (hopefully with different owners), with joint planning, shared goals, and a clear model for resource allocation.

(4) Design a process that eliminates conflict: Too often, marketing organizations sabotage themselves by putting in place lead generation processes that create conflict with sales. A bad lead process creates a rapid death spiral that looks like this: (a) marketing sends tons of leads, (b) sales says the leads are weak, (c) sales stops calling the leads, (d) marketing says sales is weak, (e) marketing stops getting any ROI from its investments, (f) people get fired.

From my experience, the number one source of friction tends to be the definition of a qualified lead. If sales and marketing are arguing over whether a lead is really qualified — or whether lead quality is high enough — you likely need to fix your definitions and processes. You can find my thoughts on lead qualification best practices here.

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