Innovator Insights: PwC’s Derek Baker

Innovator Insights: PwC’s Derek Baker

Derek Baker, PwC

Brands don’t often start off with a fully-drawn technology roadmap to power their market efforts, and can find themselves lost as a result. Typically it takes an unexpected shift – the end of third-party cookies, new digital channels or simply changes in customer expectations – and the roadmap may need to be redrawn. That’s when they turn to Derek Baker to assist with the cartography.

As a principal at PwC and its marketing technology leader, Baker and his team routinely connect with marketing leaders on the emerging gaps within their tech stack, advise on how to better align those capabilities to their commercial objectives, and support roadmap creation to help close any identified gap.  

When (tech) worlds collide

For years now, agencies and other third parties have helped procure and run adtech platforms on behalf of their clients. This includes header bidding technology, demand-side platforms (DSPs) and a variety of online ad tools.

On the other side are martech tools, such as marketing automation solutions that can help streamline the process of sending out email blasts and social media campaigns. According to Baker, the lines between these two worlds are blurring quickly – though not necessarily based on any direct requests to vendors from Chief Marketing Officers (CMO).

“I don’t think anyone is saying, ‘We need to bring our ad technology and our marketing technology together,” Baker told Brand Innovators in a recent interview. “They’re saying, ‘Hey, there’s a certain subset of business challenges that we have. We have data silos. We have a complex market. And we have an overly complex technology ecosystem that should be rationalized.”

Tipping points for adtech/martech consolidation

If marketers want to help provide a seamless customer journey across potential touchpoints, for example, Baker suggests that they should break down data silos and work on various systems that can “speak” to one another. Companies like PwC are on the front lines of managing that transition on behalf of their clients, integrating tools without disrupting the everyday work that marketing teams do.

The drive to bring adtech and martech stacks together is becoming more urgent than ever as brands grapple with this year’s economic headwinds and put more scrutiny on their existing IT investments. Baker said they often discover the potential of those investments has yet to be realized.

“Many brands have shiny object syndrome, and they rush out and buy the latest and greatest technology. Then they end up with a technology stack that is highly underused,” he said, citing figures from market research firm Gartner that only about 42% of marketing technologies are actually utilized within organizations. “It’s largely driven by people investing in technology, without a clear understanding of how and where it’s going to fill gaps and drive business results.”

The process changes that can come with technology changes

As brands’ tech stacks become more unified, they also have to contend with the fact that the way they work could look a lot different. Data management platforms (DMPs), for instance, have typically been run by media agencies. Now the martech options include customer data platforms (CDPs), which are less limited in functionality and could potentially supplant them. However the move to CDPs can mean brands are bringing audience development capabilities in-house.

“You might have had a completely different audience development process that was done by your agency, and as you bring that work in house, your processes will likely need to change, ” he said. “Those processes should change because with a CDP, those audiences are not just being used for media. They’re being used for personalization. They’re being used to power your email segmentation. It’s less about, ‘How do I manage these new technologies?’ and more, ‘How can I change and adapt my organization to these new technologies which require potential changes in process and strategy?’”

Marketing may drive these conversations, but Baker recommended brands are in close alignment with IT departments so they can think clearly beyond adoption on how technologies can be maintained over time.

Watching out for walled gardens

Brands should also keep this journey towards consolidation in mind as they evaluate future investments, Baker added. He talked about companies who have a “walled garden” approach where they try to offer a proprietary set of tools. There can be big differences in how easy it can integrate with legacy solutions or other tools coming on the market.

Often, many CMOs and their teams were probably never trained in how to know which technologies will become difficult to work with the rest of their stack or go completely obsolete. Baker said that some solutions will remain foundational – like those that can bring together customer data for deeper analysis – and others will likely require tweaking and enhancements. The point is to be prepared for this kind of consolidation and rationalization, and to have the right collaborators on hand to help address it.

“I don’t think we can ever be future-proof,” he said. “However, we should strive to continually innovate.”