“It is more risky to be afraid of change than it is to embrace change.” Keynote Speaker Wes Nichols Discusses Marketing Transformation in Exclusive Interview

With September coming to a close, it only means one thing: Summer is almost officially over. To some, that might be bad news, but to us at The Millennium Alliance, we are thrilled that fall is almost here. The reason why? Our highly anticipated Transformational CMO Assembly this October is Denver is on the horizon.

To add to the excitement, Digital Diary had the opportunity to sit down with our Keynote speaker, Wes Nichols, to gain a first-hand look into how marketing is continually being affected by predictive analytics to marketing optimization, and how the changes in those sectors are impacting the industry. Wes discusses the pace of change in the industry, as well as the key challenges executives marketers face as the industry continues to evolve, and what to do to overcome them.

Thank you, Wes, for sharing your insight with us!

You are an industry authority in predictive analytics, marketing optimization, attribution and cross-channel measurement, and creating solutions for Fortune 500 companies for over 20 years. How has marketing changed over the course of those 20 years?

Wes Nichols: The pace of change, powered by technology, data, and analytics, has continued to accelerate and dominate the C-Suite of many companies, large and small. The ability for CMOs to have true agility and accuracy with decision-making, resource allocation, and tactical activities is remarkable and powerful. We are seeing the next wave of CEOs in the making as a result – a first for CMOs.

As you are considered a “serial entrepreneur” in the industry, what value does a seasoned business have when looking to partner or acquire a startup? What would you say to those who wouldn’t take that risk?

WN: The game-changer for my company was partnering with UCLA and Wharton academics who are considered the world’s leaders in marketing science. They had a huge advantage of having thought about this analytics problem and creating solutions that passed academic rigor as well as in-market performance.  We also created what many consider is the best advisory board assembled, and we really relied on these industry experts – Jim Stengel, Rishad Tobaccowala, Margo Georgiadis, Becky Saeger, Mike Linton, Gokul Rajaram and numerous other luminaries in their fields were very hands-on in the creation and expansion of MarketShare.  Most important, it was critical to find early innovators like Anne Lewnes at Adobe, Jim Farley at Ford and many other clients who ‘got’ what we had built and how different it was from anything else in the market.

As the marketing industry continues to evolve, the way people develop solutions and strategies has drastically changed when compared to the past. How have influential technologies like AI or Blockchain impacted the way marketing leaders develop breakthrough solutions that resonate in the industry?

WN: I find it riskier to be afraid of change than it is to embrace change. Things are actually moving and changing quickly – just talk to anyone in retail, media, entertainment, packaged goods and so many other industries finding themselves disrupted by technology at a must faster pace than originally estimated.   I was asked to write about this in an article which became the cover story of the Harvard Business Review several years ago – Analytics 2.0 (https://hbr.org/2013/03/advertising-analytics-20.) The article they have asked me to write this year builds on this and there continue to be big advancements in the use of data, analytics, AI and machine learning (still pretty early for blockchain for most companies, but important to understand it now).   I will be featuring a number of early innovator CMOs who are building internal teams to drive all budget planning, allocation and measurement of their marketing activities – a big shift indeed.

Is there a certain experience that you reflect upon or bring up when you create and scale solutions for global brands?

WN: The power of data. Virtually all companies (other than Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Netflix) under-estimate or under-leverage data they have in their companies. Many don’t even realize the pots of gold they are sitting on and not leveraging, relying on old approaches or methods to go to market.  The biggest opportunity of our era is to collect, analyze and leverage your data to drive revenue; if you don’t have team members who can do this, get them and trade up on your team.

What advice do you have for marketing leaders looking to stay ahead of this year’s digital transformation?

WN: Make sure your CEO and board are excited about technology advancements and understand it; if your CEO still has his or her emails printed out by the secretary for a hand-written response, quit and move on to a company that is going to survive!  (I have seen several such execs and companies, even as recently as last year). There must be an appetite to embrace change, invest in product and market changes, even disrupt your core business if necessary. If not, someone else will.

We are very excited that you are attending and keynoting our Transformational CMO Assembly in Denver. What are you looking forward to most at our event?

I have worked with CMOs globally for decades and love the innovation, creativity, energy, and enthusiasm for change. CMOs are often the voice for change and improvement, and that’s exciting to provide them the tools and PROOF of IMPACT that most CMOs have lacked for decades.

What do you think are the benefits for a C-Level executive in attending this event?

Given the rate of change happening to business now, I find attending well-curated events with interesting people from different disciplines is useful at helping me stay ahead of these changes. Those who set aside presumptions and ego, and come to actively listen and talk to peers will have tangible take-home value when they return to the office. That is the “ROI” of such an event.

About Wes Nichols

Wes Nichols is a Board Partner at Upfront Ventures and an active technology investor and advisor. Wes is a serial entrepreneur and an industry authority in predictive analytics, AI/Machine Learning, and attribution, creating and scaling solutions for global brands. Wes is the author of the Harvard Business Review cover story, Analytics 2.0, on next-generation analytics to drive more predictive CMO decision-making.

Most recently, Wes was the Chief Strategy Officer at Neustar (NYSE: NSR), the leading company in authenticated identity for marketing and security. Neustar acquired his company, MarketShare, where he was co-founder and CEO. MarketShare, recently acquired by Neustar for nearly a half a billion dollars, was backed by FTV Capital, Elevation Partners, and Silver Lake, the world’s largest technology investor.

Prior to starting MarketShare, Wes was with Omnicom Group (NYSE: OMC) as President and CEO of TBWA’s digital business, working with Nissan, Sony, Pfizer, and other brands. Prior, he was the founder and CEO of Direct Partners, building from scratch one of the industry’s first data-driven analytics companies, which was acquired by Omnicom Group. Wes is a member of the Board of Directors of TrueCar (NASDAQ: TRUE) and BJ’s Restaurants (NASDAQ: BJRI), the LAPD Foundation, and a Trustee of Randolph-Macon College. Wes is an active member in both Young Presidents Organization (YPO) as well as the Pacific Council on International Policy.

You can meet Wes Nichols at our Transformational CMO Assembly in Denver on October 22-23, and follow along on social media using #MillenniumLive for more insights. 


This October, the 8th Transformational CMO Assembly in Denver is a unique event that challenges our attendees to learn how to anticipate what’s next for the highly complex marketing environment that has emerged throughout the year through a series of executive education roundtables, keynote presentations, collaborative think tanks, educational workshops, and networking sessions with our industry experts and advisory board over the course of 2 days.

Download your copy of the sponsorship prospectus here for more information>>

Spaces are reserved for the best in the business. If you’re a CMO looking to stay one step ahead of the digital world, reserve your seat today >

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Jenny Schecher is a Client Services Director & Social Media Manager at The Millennium Alliance. Jenny is an avid contributor to our blog, Digital Diary, as well as all social media platforms. When she is not writing about digital transformation and technology, she is working with her team to make visions come to life at our events. (and eating all of NYC's best food.) Follow her on Instagram: @jennyschecs or find her on LinkedIn!

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