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CES Thought Leadership: The Trade Desk CMO, Susan Vobejda

Don Schaefer, Specialist, Social Media, Consumer Technology Association

Technology is revolutionizing the marketing and advertising industry. From data-driven strategy to in-depth analytics, marketers have a slew of new tools and resources at their disposal to reach customers.

We had the chance to talk to The Trade Desk’s CMO, Susan Vobejda about her experience at CES and how marketers should traverse this new digital frontier.

Tell us a little about your background and career, and what led you to The Trade Desk.

I love to learn, and that has driven my career.  My path has not been linear at all but more of a “spider web” career.   Over the past 15 years, I have not really worked in the same industry twice in a row.   When looking for a new challenge, I have gravitated toward roles where I’m not sure exactly how I will approach the work.   This has created a flexibility and agility that is certainly helping me in my current role.

I am currently the CMO of The Trade Desk which is a technology company that markets a “demand side platform” for advertisers.  Our product is used by agencies to buy data-driven digital media, also known as programmatic media.

 I came to this role in technology after being the CMO of Tory Burch.  People hear about my change from fashion and think— what?   I’m always asked about it.   But The Trade Desk operates at the center of what’s happening marketing, media, digital and data.  I become a better marketer every day that I walk into the doors of our company.

Before Tory Burch, I ran the content distribution business of Bloomberg Media.  This was another very different role that helped me gain a publisher’s mindset.  I believe the modern marketer is actually a publisher that needs to tell the story of a brand through different types of content.  One of the first things my team and I did together at The Trade Desk was to build our social media capabilities.

You spoke on a panel at CES 2019 with the CMOs of Pandora and Cadillac. What were some of the trends you and the other panelists discussed?

There really is no such thing anymore as an Annual Plan.  The annual marketing plan is simply making your best guess at the start of the year.  At The Trade Desk, we then re-plan every three months with our team and rejigger investments and priorities.  Especially in a hyper-growth business like ours, you have to be flexible and agile to simply keep up with the trajectory. 

Another thing we discussed is the importance of creative today.  In order to break through in digital channels, you need to have a strong creative idea and brand voice.  It’s important to take a position as a company that is different and purposeful.  Consumers want to know why a brand matters and so do prospective employees. 

What was your favorite part of CES 2019? 

I loved our Future Focus CMO panel this year with three amazing CMOs who all happened to be female.  I feel passionately about giving women a voice at major conferences like CES and also in the press.  It was so much fun to participate with these amazing women and of course we had the fantastic Jenny Rooney from Forbes as our moderator.

CES is more and more becoming a place where marketing leaders convene to understand the cutting edge of technologies, media and marketing.  It’s amazing how much you can learn in a single week and how many connections can be made.  The CMO is truly the modern day corporate superhero with all of the ground that is covered in this role.  I am so thrilled that CES is focusing on the marketing leader in their programming.  

How do you see technology continuing to influence marketing and advertising in the future?

The most innovative CMOs I’m talking with are putting data and technology at the center of their efforts.  Instead of data and analytics being an outcome, the best CMOs start with data to inform strategy—not only marketing strategy but also business strategy.

A leading technology stack as well as an amazing business analytics team are so important for a brand trying to drive advantage in their business.  This is the investment that many businesses will be making on a larger scale in the near future to win.   Customer centric communications through programmatic media buying is a key part of this to drive relevance and efficiency for winning brands.

Check out Susan Vobejda on the Future Focus panel from CES 2019.