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IBM Watson CMO Jordan Bitterman predicts a “pivot to flexibility” in 2018

December 20, 2017 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

As chief marketing officer for IBM Watson Content & IoT Platform, Jordan Bitterman oversees messaging to both internal and external audiences. He is responsible for all marketing functions across the IBM Watson Content & IoT Platform division – connecting b2b marketing, ad sales marketing, consumer marketing, as well as corporate communications. Based in New York, he is part of the IBM Watson Content & IoT Platform executive leadership team and reports to GM, Cameron Clayton. Here, Bitterman offers his thoughts on some issues he thinks will be top of mind for marketers in 2018:


What’s the biggest challenges that marketers face in 2018?

JB: The benefits of the big players in the digital space – scale, relative brand safety and deep targeting capabilities – have always had an equally challenging downside: data flexibility. At the same time these players have been addressing their current marketing needs, they have also been growing a massive stockpile of data on their customers. They have been collecting it, cleaning it and preparing it for use across all aspects of their business: marketing, sales, CRM, logistics, and yield management. The big challenge today: putting it to use.

As an industry, how should we best address this issue?

JB: The big, walled gardens in the industry act like a roach motel: data comes in, but it doesn’t come out. For the most sophisticated brands, 2018 is the year when they will address these issues and start demanding that their media partners become flexible with data. These brands will require that their own data can be mixed with publisher data to be applied on and off the publishers’ own platforms. This “pivot to flexibility” will begin this year and will ultimately up–end the new norms created over the last decade.

What do you think the biggest opportunity for marketers will be in 2018?

JB: As the Internet has become a tangled web of nontransparent, unknown and unsafe environments comprised of millions of publishers, Facebook and Google have been the prime receptacle for brand dollars. They have largely done it in the interest of brand safety – a known is better than an unknown. And, as we have seen, the duopoly accounts for about 85% of all digital ad spend. But that trend will begin to back off a bit in 2018. The opportunity that will come into clearer focus for marketers will be their ability to port data into and out of platforms.

Major brands have cut – or considered cutting – their spend in the programmatic space and have moved those dollars to the duopoly. It is important that we get the message out that programmatic isn’t the problem. Programmatic is just a way of buying media. The sheer volume of the site list – and efficacy of those sites – is the most important issue for buyers to consider as they shift dollars back into programmatic environments. The top 100 global website traffic list, which includes brand–safe properties such as the New York Times, ESPN, c|net and The Weather Channel – is populated with media brands that manage brand safe environments and can deliver audiences both at scale and with extreme competence.

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