New Digital Age (NDA), in association with LiveRamp, is spotlighting the men and women championing a data-led revolution in the marketing industry. ‘Meet the Revolutionaries’ focuses on the efforts of the industry executives helping to push digital marketing into a new era of data collaboration.
Here, Sarah Robertson, Director of Product at Experian, offers her advice on innovation and her take on the future of digital marketing…
Tell me about your role at Experian.
I’ve been in a product role for about three years at Experian. There are three separate teams that I lead here. Firstly, a product management team, who look after the commercial side and the longer term product vision. I’m also responsible for the product ownership team, which manages the technical roadmap across all of our product portfolio. Finally, I manage the product analytics development team, as my own background is in analytics.
Can you give an example of a time you personally drove innovation?
Several years ago, we were approached by a CPG brand who wanted to create audiences based on a specific set of research data. Unfortunately, the research company that produced the data didn’t want to share it with anyone offsite.
Our response was to build an app that sat onsite at the research company, which automatically developed machine learning models based on their data. They then sent us the code and the model performance that enabled us to apply that model to Experian data, then push to the relevant channels for the client.
We understood the needs of the client and the key stakeholders and by building that modeling capability for the client we essentially created one of the very first cleanrooms!
What are the main barriers to innovation?
The biggest challenge in the industry right now in terms of innovation is probably the regulatory landscape. It’s constantly evolving and changing, and I think that will continue for the next few years. Digital is a complex ecosystem and data flows around it. It’s difficult to innovate when we don’t really have a clear expectation of what data regulations might be in the future or even a clear definition of what they are right now!
What tips can you offer anyone hoping to drive innovation inside their own organisation?
I’m quite a tenacious person. Big, big innovation isn’t easy. You need to keep the goal in mind, but also listen to people along the way. Sometimes the goal can actually change as a project progresses, so you have to be open to that. At the start of any project, I ask my team of product managers to create a list of assumptions about the project. We know that not all those assumptions will turn out to be true. So, stay focused on your goal, but be responsive and open to change.
Never be afraid to ask questions. Talk to as many relevant parties as possible. Having lots of information allows you to make better decisions and gives you the inside knowledge you need to challenge people in exactly the right way.
How do you think the role of digital marketer will evolve over the next few years?
Firstly, Generative AI is moving quite quickly at the moment. We don’t know how it’s going to develop or how organisations are going to view it but, in terms of its impacts on digital remarketing, search optimisation will probably be the first thing to be transformed.
Secondly, I think the digital marketing landscape will continue to get more complex. We’ll see more channels than ever being bought programmatically. We’ve seen the emergence of CTV, Retail Media and Digital OOH in recent years but what about things like those little TVs on planes? Who is sitting in that seat? The metaverse is also still developing as a channel as well and buying advertising in virtual environments will definitely become more important over the next five years.
All of that complexity will make cross channel measurement more difficult but much more important. There will also be more types of data as a result of all those channels, but we’ll need to respect the privacy rights of individuals. That means we’ll see more depersonalisation and anonymisation to create relevant audiences at the ‘cohort’ level.