ChartBeat to CMOs: Let Go of Grand Strategy

CEO says marketers need to embrace real-time data

With his startup ChartBeat, CEO Tony Haile has already changed the way many online publications operate, by providing them with real-time data about who is visiting their website. Now, Haile says it's time for marketers to follow.

Speaking at an Advertising Week panel on "The CMO Dashboard of Tomorrow," Haile said that those marketing chiefs need to move away from a top-down approach, where they set out a grand campaign strategy for everyone to follow. Instead, they should embrace "the death of strategy and the primacy of tactics"—lay out their big goals, then allow every team member to make decisions on the fly, based on immediate data from services like ChartBeat.

Otherwise, he said, they may not be able to respond to a developing situation, good or bad, until it's "too damn late." As an example, Haile pointed to Southwest Airlines, which built up a good reputation over many years, then saw that reputation crumble after it "threw two fat people off a plane."

"The sum total of our small responses is greater than our grand strategy sometimes," he said. 

IPG Mediabrands' Quentin George, who was moderating the panel, jokingly chided, "Whoa, whoa, young man, that's not how advertising works."

Haile argued that publishers two and a half years ago had a similar attitude—they didn't need real-time data because they would package their news in the way they thought was best. However, companies like Gawker and The Huffington Post demonstrated a more flexible, responsive model. If, in a few years, there's another panel where advertisers say "that's not how advertising works," Haile predicted, "I think this won't be a room full of successful people."

The ways companies present this data need to evolve, he added. It won't be a traditional campaign report, but rather "an environment you live in." Haile described a company where the office is filled with lava lamps, and the color of those lamps changes depending on business data.

"That's an environment of data," he said. "It's kind of crazy, but it's an environment of data."