IBM Exec Bob Lord Believes These 5 Things Can Help Marketers Advance Their Careers

Data, speed, talent and more

Big Blue has big aims with Watson, per one of its execs, so should everyone else.
Getty Images

Adweek Livecast—a new webinar series anchored by our editorial team—premiered on Tuesday and featured Bob Lord, chief digital officer at IBM and ad-tech pioneer with companies like AOL and Razorfish on his executive resume. The Livecast debut represents the last part of our Next Tech series, which began on July 23 and has included coverage across all our platform—the magazine, website, podcasts, webinars and our Wednesday afternoon #AdweekChat Twitter series.

During the 45-minute segment called Future-Proof Your Marketing Career, we got Lord’s takes on how—among many other interesting things—artificial intelligence is going to shape careers and campaigns in the brand marketing ecosystem.

“Years ago, our competitive dynamics were pretty reasonable and predictable,” Lord said. “Business strategy could be set in a silo with really long time horizons. But today, it can’t. The idea of disruption covers everything from terrorism to cyberattacks to the impact of [app-based] businesses like Uber and Airbnb. And the common denominator around this is that we’ve become a data-driven world.”

What does that all of that mean to the future of campaigns and marketing jobs? Here are five intriguing things Lord told us during the Livecast.

1. If you are not worried about keeping up, you should be
The CEOs that Lord talks to are concerned about finding people who are nimble in how they can plan, execute and scale initiatives. Quickness or agility in the marketplace might not even be enough, he suggested, as the need for diverse skill sets—folks who know how to pivot and manage various digital tasks—are also high in demand.

“It’s all about speed, and it’s all about talent,” Lord said. “When you think about what’s going to separate the winners from the losers, it’s all about speed. … Even, I would suggest to you ‘failing speed,’ obviously combined with ‘recovery speed.’ So speed and how you operate are essential to your future as a marketer.”

2. The forecast is not partly cloudy—it’s an overcast of computing
Being an IBM marketer, of course, Lord briefly addressed Watson’s abilities to help businesses compete in this data-driven era. But to a greater degree, he spoke about how modern companies generally need to have a global enterprise infrastructure to manage incoming and outgoing content in the form of videos, text messages and social media conversations.

Systems need to “handle the entire world’s population tweeting simultaneously,” the CDO explained. “If you are only leveraging 20 percent of the world’s data, you are at a disadvantage.”

Developers are racing toward a world where marketing clouds and other kinds of system “can learn at scale, reason with purpose and interact with humans naturally,” Lord added. “So therefore, cognitive computing will help you learn more about your audience so you can derive more information to immediately identify even psychological traits, which determine what their intent is.”

3. Wanted: in-house data scientists
For organizations that want to catch up or stay ahead, he said, recruiting will be key.

“Cognitive developers and data scientists, I believe, are the right talent that you need,” Lord said. “It’s the only way to develop personalized experiences that have access to individuals’ data.”

He added, “If you don’t have the talent in the house right now, you will not be able to compete long term. And if you don’t have developers and data scientists on staff, you won’t be able to advise companies and brands.”

4. Get your hands dirty with data—or else
Lord pointed to the fact that his employer predicts that there will be 3 million data scientists and analytics jobs by 2020. And here are four quotes from the IBM exec that reveal more about how he feels about data, revenue growth and careers going forward:

  • “A mix of understanding data science and development, I believe, is the key to being a very, very strong marketer and an incredible value to your brand or agency.”
  • “[It] has to be somewhere upwards of 90 percent where [brand marketers] have developers and data scientists that are in the mix. Technology will drive creativity.”
  • “We should be able to rapidly test different kinds of copy, different kinds of color, treatment and pictures and what USPs [unique selling propositions] are working and what USPs are not working. … We talk about it a lot, but I do not think we use the data as well as we need to on an ongoing basis.”
  • “It’s not restricted anymore to the old presentation … or the back-end development. It’s all one. In order for you to help a business be successful, a basic understanding of development skills is going to make your career propel.”

5. Artificial intelligence
And, do marketers need to know AI? Yep, Lord said.

“I think AI is going to be incredibly important to anyone’s career wherever you are,” he remarked. “I don’t think artificial intelligence will ever taken the human being out. What it will do is allow human beings to make better decisions and faster decisions.”

For more Lord riffs, please check out the full LiveCast here.