Q&A: Adobe’s CMO Ann Lewnes

Ann Lewnes, Adobe

Marketing Week caught up with Adobe’s chief marketing officer Ann Lewnes at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, following its survey suggesting that people still prefer traditional to digital advertising and its move this week putting its software into the cloud.

Marketing Week (MW): When you were interviewed by Marketing Week in 2011, you said 75 per cent of your marketing budget was being spent on digital marketing. Has anything changed?

Ann Lewnes (AL): It’s roughly the same, we have a pretty finite audience. If you were a toothpaste brand you’d probably need to go much more ‘mass’ in terms of your reach. For us, digital makes sense in terms of our budget. That said, our mix within digital is shifting and we are seeing a lot of value in video online.

For our current ‘Marketing is BS’ campaign, we produced four or five videos and they drove 20 to 30 per cent of the traffic to our website for the overall campaign, so they were highly effective in getting attention. That is why TV advertising has always been so effective: it is a story, it’s fun and engaging and consumers respond well to that, so why shouldn’t that work well on the web?

I’m not saying people shouldn’t be doing television, as actually television and digital go together beautifully. We did a survey in January based on analytics data which showed that brands advertising during the Superbowl ads had a 20 per cent bump in traffic. What is impossible for me to believe is that people are not really jumping on digital and trying to get a relationship with the customer. Whether through social or web properties, there is such a huge opportunity to build up a really strong connection.

MW: So will you use online video advertising a lot more now?

AL: Yes. We had not done ‘produced’ video before; we had done them but not with very high production values. Now we will do it a lot because it is working really well and we have to figure out how to make it much more integrated with the rest of the campaign. We have produced some great videos and we have the other print work and other digital work and they are not quite as connected as they need to be.

That is the thing about video, you don’t want it to turn into television, where it is a thing by itself. You need it to all be integrated if you are doing it online. 

Our aim is to get people to come to our website, so the source of website traffic is extremely important and video drove that a lot. My rule of thumb on TV is that within the first 10 seconds you have to grab people’s attention or else they tune out and I think it is probably the same in online video.

MW: You have talked about having a stronger brand for Adobe. How is that going?

AL: A lot has changed in the last two years. We are moving our packaged software, such as Photoshop, into the cloud with Creative Cloud, where you can share and synch your content, and get access to services to publish your content. You pay monthly for the service for it and today we have introduced a major update so that is moving on.

Our Marketing Cloud is a couple of years in and we have the media optimisation, targeting, web content management and social media used by marketers, agencies and publishing companies. Are we the best known? We are getting there – we just did a series of brand tracking surveys and have made significant headway – but I want to be top of mind in that category.

Our next goal is to really bring these two clouds together.

MW: You are now bringing in house aspects of your marketing that might have made up an agency’s role. How has your relationship with agencies changed?

AL: It makes sense to in-source things as we are a creative company. What is important for agencies is to increase the ability to advise clients on digital marketing strategy, to really help them because clients really need help.

If they can become strategic partners on best practise, digital marketing and help lead clients through the journey, that is a huge advantage for agencies. I also think agencies should continue to be big idea factories. In future we may start to do some of the more tactical activities like display advertising or email in house. 

We do editorial in house, because we need to have that really quick turnaround.  To be a great digital marketer requires very quick turnaround.

MW: How do you respond to the backlash against the subscription you announced for Creative Cloud this week?

AL: We introduced a big update, it is a big change we are listening carefully to the customers who have strong concerns about it. We are aware of them, we are open to seeing whether there is some kind of help they can have during the transition. The upshot is we have decided not to make new packaged software any more: we are only going to make it in the cloud and it is a big change. 

People are very reliant on our products so we are listening, we are evaluating whether we need to do something. We do have a lot of people who are super-satisfied and it allows us as a company to focus on doing one thing, and we think that is the best way to make the best software.