Santander CMO: Martech is oversold, but it’s marketers’ fault

Martech may overpromise, but it is marketers’ fault for not really knowing what they want, says Santander CMO Keith Moor.

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Martech might not always live up to expectations, but marketers only have themselves to blame for not better understanding want they want from the tech in the first place.

That’s the opinion of Santander CMO Keith Moor, who insists marketers need to think like chief technology officers if they are going to get the best out of martech.

“Martech is oversold, but I don’t think it’s the fault of the vendors. I think they’re responding to demand from the marketer. The marketer is saying ‘I want all this stuff’, but they don’t actually know what they really want and that’s always the biggest problem,” Moor said yesterday (21 March) at Advertising Week Europe.

He argued it is incumbent on marketers to understand how the technology interacts with their consumers and the language used to analyse how it works. Marketers do not have to be programmers or know how to code, said Moor, but they must understand where they are putting their investment, so the decision is right for their customers.

Looking at his own team at Santander, he said the media department is not concerned with understanding how TV works, like it may have been 15 years ago.

“They’re martech experts, particularly adtech. They are honing their skills more in understanding the tech than understanding media, because that is more important for a media team inside my marketing function. That’s how we get more efficiency and more value,” he explained.

READ MORE: Navigating the martech maze – How to get started

CMO for EMEA at GoDaddy, Kate Cox, who was talking on the same panel, martech vendors do understand how many people are needed to manage the tech stack in order to get the most out of it though.

“I have tried to do it on the cheap, I’ve tried to retrain a designer or retrain an analyst in whatever the tech stack is and that never really works, because you never really get the help and support from the vendor to make that sort of investment work,” she stated.

“You need specialists and oh my god, has anyone tried to hire a data scientist? They are expensive to find.”

Fellow panellist Nick White, online director of Samsung Business UK, argued that marketers are often faced with a headcount-related balancing act. He suggested this could mean, for example, being faced with the decision of replacing an affiliate marketing manager who drives a guaranteed 15% of ecommerce sales, with a data scientist who is potentially difficult to recruit.

Moor explained that whenever he is looking at a martech investment he builds into the business case the number of full-time employees he would need to train and develop internally to become experts in that particular piece of kit.

For Cox the solution could lie with getting specialists in, rather than relying on the internal team to make it work.

“Everyone talks about in-housing martech, but wouldn’t it be cool if there were in-house martech specialists at the start of a project?” she asked. “Those are the people who actually know this stuff and that is the way you do it quickly, instead of trying to figure it out for yourselves.”

Who is responsible for ROI?

Santander spends a “gargantuan amount of money on martech”, and yet despite being in the “tens of millions”, the amount spent is nowhere near the biggest proportion of the bank’s technology budget, said Moor.

Spending on adtech is typically localised within the marketing division at Santander, although legal and compliance are included in the decision making process. However, if it’s a large scale martech investment, Moor believes everyone has to get involved in the decision.

“[It’s my responsibility] to make work and return reasonably quickly the investment on that. The wider martech investment is a corporate investment,” he explained.

“As an executive committee we make decisions together. The return on those business cases is not even annual, often you’re looking at that over three years minimum. It’s like investing in property, infrastructure and people, it’s got to have that same time frame.”

White has seen the responsibility for the martech return on investment (ROI), shift depending on where he has worked.

While Samsung is a sales driven organisation and therefore the ROI lies directly with him, when he served as head of marketing at the John Lewis Partnership the business saw spend on martech as a collective, long-term strategic investment that would be carried out in tandem with other members of the team, such as the IT director.

Whoever is responsible for the ROI, Moor stressed that every decision made when it comes to investing in a martech solution should take into account how it can improve the efficiency and productivity of the marketing function, as well as the value it will bring to the consumer.