A new professional has landed in the c-level ranks of our industry, vowing to bond the drifting continents of marketing and IT.

The polymath of our time, a chief marketing technologist’s interdepartmental expertise is in greater need than ever as marketing as a whole becomes increasingly centered on technology.

PerformanceIN spoke to DataXu’s Chris Le May following its survey on the rise of the CMT in the UK in order to find out more about the title and what its emergence tells us about the industry.

First of all, in your own words, how would you define the chief marketing technologist?

Chris Le May: The chief marketing technologist is a natural response to the increasing influence of technology on the marketing role. In fact, according to our report ‘The New Marketer’, over a quarter of marketing professionals are spending more than half of their time now using technology to drive their core activities.

To manage this new ecosystem, marketers need a leader who can combine both left brain and right brain – data and creativity in tandem. Chief marketing technologists are equal part technology expert and marketing expert, and thus fulfil this role perfectly.

What’s spurred the sudden emergence of this job title?

CLM: It’s not a sudden emergence, that’s the thing: in large US corporations (over $500 million in revenue) this title is commonplace.

Elements of the chief marketing technologist (CMT) have been experimented with a lot in the UK in recent years, often under different names. The role is now becoming fully formed, so we’re beginning to see the title being adopted on a much grander scale.

Our research shows that nearly a fifth of UK businesses already have a CMT and a further 70% of marketers believe more companies will recruit one within the next five years.

Isn’t this what all CMOs are having to do anyway? Is the title a bit of a fad or does it hold a more pertinent indication that we’re in a period of flux?

CLM: No, it’s not a fad. Whilst no-one expects all CMOs to be out of work in the next 12 months it would be naive to think that the involvement of programmatic, machine-based technologies is going to do anything but increase over time.

What we’re seeing is the industry’s acknowledgement that these technologies require fundamentally different skill sets if they are to be mastered.

CMOs have occasionally adopted elements of the CMT role – they’ve experimented with it in recent years, and in some individual cases they may well be a CMT in all but name. However the role as we see it – that bridge between IT and marketing, with a wealth of experience and clarity of vision in both camps – is only now starting to widely emerge.

The value of the CMT is already apparent according to our survey. We found that 35% of marketers believe that if CMTs were to replace CMOs, businesses would benefit from the additional insight they bring with them.

Why has the ability to work across departments within digital marketing become so paramount?

CLM: Cross-department, joined-up working has become paramount because digital platforms do not exist in silos. To ensure intelligent, seamless campaigns, the ability for marketers to work across different departments is absolutely key.

The rise of multi-channel has opened up a wealth of information for companies, and company servers groan under the sheer weight of data businesses now collect. But that’s just the beginning.

Making sense of this data – to distil actionable insights – is a science unto itself, and one that requires a great deal of technical expertise. Consolidating different data sets and insights from different digital marketing initiatives into consistent customer profiles is crucial and requires someone who can operate across teams and act as the unifying figure.

How has the use of data changed within online marketing in the last two years?

CLM: The era of ‘big data’ has definitely arrived, and a data-driven way of working is becoming par for the course for many marketers and businesses. Marketers have now become au fait with leveraging data from all kinds of channels – be it customer purchasing history, CRM databases, or market research, to inform tactical brand decisions.

Marketers now have more power at their fingertips in the form of data and tools than ever before, but with this comes the responsibility of knowing how to use it to shape not just their brand strategy for the better, but that of their business.

The rise of programmatic means that the use of this data has moved from simple user profiling to understanding and reacting to user behaviour in real time.           

So, will companies start to ‘swap out’ the CMOs with CMTs?

CLM: Where the CMT will sit in the structure, and whether they’ll replace CMOs, is still to be decided.

Our research shows there are varying schools of thought on this, but a significant number – 49% – believe CMTs should sit with CMOs at board level. However some marketers believe it will go even further – 35% go as far as to say that CMTs will replace CMOs outright. In whatever form it comes, there’s no doubt that the tech-focused marketer is changing the face of marketing.