Interview with Roland Deal, President, Americas, DWA

Roland Deal DWA
Roland Deal

Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be a part of DWA?

As President of Americas, I oversee the operations and growth of the region, which is made up of three offices – San Francisco, Boston, and Austin. What my job ultimately is about is ensuring we have the best talent possible, everyone doing their best work in an environment where they feel inspired, acknowledged, motivated and in which they can have some fun. I came to DWA through my relationship with Bob Ray, our CEO, with whom I worked previously and had developed a very strong professional and personal relationship. Working with people you’ve partnered with before, where you know them and they know you, and their respective strengths, personalities, etc. makes for a much more productive and pleasurable work experience.

I joined DWA back in mid-2016, mainly because I sensed that the agency had carved out a strong, unique position in the marketplace and was poised for growth and success with the right mix of people, opportunities and structure – all of which I felt could be impacted positively with my contribution and experience. So the timing was right and I’m very happy I made the decision to join DWA. The last 18 months have seen a massive growth swing and crazy success with an almost unbelievable 92% win rate on pitches and new opportunities.

How would you define “Digital Transformation’ and “Digital Innovation” respectively, in the context of present media buying standards?

There is a real difference between the two, although I often see the terms used interchangeably. “Innovation” can be considered a change that occurs due to relatively sudden breakthrough, new idea or approach to an existing paradigm or model whereas “transformation” is more related to the process of incorporating an innovation into a process or behavior – i.e., an organization’s approach to a certain function or task. Meaningful innovations lead to transformations over time.

Currently, there are a multitude of innovations happening in the media space, such as the usage of AI in programmatic buying, the ability to link online activity to offline purchases and engagement, and the ability to create highly personalized messaging based on real-time creative optimization that utilizes behaviors, demographics, location and others.

What I see as being transformative is the importance of data driving marketing’s mission, strategy, tactics, and ultimate performance. Digital transformation is having an impact on all aspects of a company’s activities, most visibly in how they communicate, engage and service their customers and prospects. Marketing was once a cost center and now through a series of innovations around attribution, tracking, and usage of data, it is now a profit-center where ROMI can be directly captured and gives the CMO and his or her fellow C-suite associates full transparency into what marketing’s dollars are generating. Knowing exactly how advertising drives sales is the essence of transformation.

What’s the Go-To-Market technology strategy for advertising companies in 2018?

Seeing that successful B2B campaigns rely on reaching actual humans in brand-safe, viewable environments, I predict that many advertising agencies will follow our parent company Dentsu’s example and push for deeper integrations with premium publishers to target users on a PII basis. These types of integrations, provided they could scale to fit advertisers’ inventory demands (and in turn, there’s enough advertiser demand to fulfill supply), provide an advantage over private marketplaces, which entail markups and adtech fees.

In addition, AI’s impact and benefits to marketers will continue to grow in 2018. Advertisers and agencies that champion personalized marketing to consumers can leverage AI to automate a brand’s messaging, whether it’s delivered through ads or content. While the latter is more difficult to personalize via AI, marketers with large repositories of content will be well positioned to take advantage of advances in AI technology and its effect on programmatic media buying.

Which brings us to the subject of programmatic—programmatic, or automated media buying, will continue to dominate the advertising landscape, especially as marketers are keener to embrace social advertising and advanced TV. Especially for B2B, capitalizing on intent data, such as a company’s employees’ “surging” (or searched-for) topics and terms, can assist advertisers with targeting abilities that help shape the buyer journey.

I predict that these technological innovations will show up in more advertisers’ toolboxes in 2018. In order to remain relevant, media agencies, which have historically provided services and not products to their clients, will need to adopt automation and AI if not build out proprietary solutions.

How would the convergence of digital media and connected TV impact the media buying strategies by 2020?

Despite the rise of digital, broadcast will still be a major channel for marketers who need the reach and scale of TV. Although, with the emergence and importance of data, the wide-net of TV will soon become significantly more precise, turning broader audiences based on geography, demographics and day-parts into micro-segments based on highly developed personas. This will eventually lead to marketers delivering advertising in a less interruptive manner in favor of a more immersive, seamless experience where content and message are blended tightly. The future of TV will require unique executions and more creative units, as well as the further usage and leveraging of data that will, in turn, make ad delivery more targeted and relevant. Advances in the targeting available will increase the value, effectiveness and efficiency of marketers’ TV investments – which is a win-win for everybody: consumers, broadcasters and advertisers alike.

What startups in the media technology industry are you watching/keen on right now?

Sprinklr: Sprinklr is an enterprise-grade social media management platform that enables brands to connect with customers across multiple touch points, which is critical for us as more of our B2B clients are recognizing the value of social.

OmniVrt: This team is doing some really interesting things around delivering marketing communications in virtual environments. It allows users to view/engage with 360 degree content on smartphones and other screens with or without headsets. It’s not just a matter of if but when…

What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2018?

The following are used in-house as well as for our clients.

Research/Planning Tools

Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign at DWA?

There are many to choose from but a recent campaign that we’re proud of is an omnichannel programmatic program to drive highly qualified leads for a major telecom company’s SMB organization. The client has multiple business units, each catering to a specific set of buyer segments, including Small Business/Consumer Plus (<26 employees), Midmarket (100-999 employees) and Enterprise (Named Accounts) segments. DWA architected concurrent media campaigns designed to reach IT/BDMs by company size, while minimizing overlap through careful audience segmentation and a frequent analytics cadence to monitor performance.

The challenge was that each segment exhibits different intent signals, buyer journeys and responds to different offers based on their unique needs. Given this, some KPIs are uniform across business units, and others may be specific to a particular segment, requiring our performance media to be adaptable to deliver against those goals.

The key objectives included creating demand and harvesting qualified leads through multiple sales channels including online/lead forms in-store and telesales, all within aggressive profitability thresholds.

The solution we developed leveraged a rich array of the client’s first-party data for known prospects, which was augmented by second- and third-party intent data to further identify best prospects. Notable media channels included digital audio and paid social, while programmatic tactics and high impact creative allowed for efficient targeting and engaging messaging, respectively.

The results proved that we had a significant impact on our client’s business:

For SMB: tasked with driving qualified website traffic and “Request a Follow Up” (RAFU) submissions; our campaign delivered a 394% increase in conversion rate, 239% increase in lead volume and 72% decrease in CPL QoQ.

For Midmarket: charged with driving media leads via content downloads for specific mobility solutions, our efforts translated to a 70% increase in conversion rate, 16% increase in lead volume and a 25% decrease in CPL.

For Enterprise: the challenge was to raise awareness of specific Enterprise solutions to a set of named accounts; success was defined by company reach. Despite a 104% increase in companies on the client’s account list, coupled with a flat investment QoQ, media partners tapping into custom Bombora segments were able to increase account reach by 85%. Media health metrics also saw gains in efficiency, including a 59% increase in programmatic arrival rate and a 23% decrease in campaign cost-per landing page arrival.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader? How do you leverage AI capabilities at DWA?

I like the idea of AI standing for augmented intelligence versus artificial intelligence as the value of AI is enhanced with a human’s ability to add qualitative and subjective thinking to the power of machine-based algorithmic computing. In the marketing world, AI is already being used to process massive amounts of data for pattern recognition, which enables predictive analysis of consumers’ behaviors. This processing power automates the delivery of highly personalized experiences, content and messaging, down to the individual level and at scale. Preparing for AI requires us to find talent who can employ the tools that generate learnings, which they can then apply to the strategic and tactical activation of our clients’ marketing investments. As consumers demand more relevancy, marketers, with the help of AI, can improve the precision of targeting an audience with meaningful advertising. Marketers and their partners—such as DWA—can focus on developing a richer, more accurate understanding of their customers. This is the starting point for the value AI can deliver.

How do you bring people and technology resources together at DWA?

One way we do this is by building deep proficiencies in the platforms and tools we use. For example, we now have more than 100 people at DWA who have obtained Facebook’s Blueprint certification. DWA employees are also certified across several ABM platforms, analytics solutions, MAPs and DMPs/DSPs. Given the rate of innovations happening in our space, it’s incumbent on the agency to stay abreast of the new technologies being adopted and ensure the team (and eventually our clients) is learning, adopting and implementing what works.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Shazam and Spotify. There is such an enormous and almost infinite supply of amazing, innovative new music. I am constantly discovering new artists and bands through Shazam apps, which I use multiple times a day every day of the year.

Waze: Between commuting, driving through San Francisco, and getting to clients’ offices, having a real-time crowdsourced guide of the fastest routes to your destination is essential if you don’t enjoy wasting time in traffic.

News app on iPhone: I check this 10-20x day to see news aggregated in a single view across multiple sources—all based on my specific interests and passions.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Standing: In meetings and at my desk, I feel more energized and productive when standing and moving around versus sitting for hours on end.

Music: I truly love music and when I need to focus, write, or ideate, listening to jazz, classical or ambient music—typically lyric-less music—provides me a productive and pleasurable “space” to crank out work.

Two screens: this is essential as I move around from application to application and refer to multiple documents when building presentations or spreadsheets. I notice a difference when working with two screens versus just my laptop.

What are you currently reading? 

I just started “Principles: Life and Work” by Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates. Bridgewater is, if not the largest, hedge fund in the world, and in his book Dalio details the philosophy that drove his success. It’s not just a business book—it’s also a blueprint on how to be successful in all aspects of your life.

In terms of news and industry intel, I read daily: NYT, Slate, Talking Points Memo, Demilked, AdAge, and MarTech!

Typically I read news/work-related content on my laptop or phone but I reserve Sundays for the New York Times analog version (actual paper!), which I consider to be a true luxury.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t make decisions when angry or upset. Wait 24 hours; if it isn’t bothering you anymore, it probably wasn’t that important.

Don’t ever take anything personally. Most of the time, it has nothing to do with you. So don’t let it be the default setting.

Think very carefully before opening your mouth. This is something I learned from a CEO I worked for at my first start-up. He had a Post-It on his computer monitor that reminded him daily to have discipline and consider carefully what he says and the consequences of his words. It’s something I do every day.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Jerry Buhlmann. He’s got such a macro view across the entire industry as well as the overall economy that I always am fascinated by his perspective and insights..

Thank you Roland! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

20+ years of delivering business success through marketing, advertising/media and business development channelsin corporate and entrepreneurial environments.

DWADWA, a Merkle Company, is a global media and marketing agency for technology companies. With its feet in media and its head in data and analytics, DWA has a fascination with the art and science of engaging people. That’s why you’ll find us at the intersection of media, technology and strategic marketing. Operating from nine offices around the world covering North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific, DWA offers a range of services such as programmatic media, marketing automation, account-based marketing and content marketing consulting – all for hundreds of the world’s best technology companies.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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