“That’s not performance marketing, that’s stupidity”

The former CEO of GroupM in Australia & New Zealand believes we should celebrate the science of marketing but not let it take over.

Mark Lollback has held a number of CMO roles across the globe at companies like PepsiCo, ANZ and McDonald’s, and was most recently heading up the GroupM business down under. And while he believes measurement is invaluable, he says: “Let’s not turn performance marketing into being lazy marketeers."

“Because then," he says in a conversation with Performance Marketing World, "we might as well just hire accountants or analytics teams, buy distress media at a really low cost, measure it extensively, do AI-generated creative, and then... consumers will get bored and they’ll start switching off.”

That being said, Lollback isn’t against the use of data and analytics, in fact he believes “there has never been a better time in the world to be a marketeer”. And by this, he refers to the famous John Wanamaker quote: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half” - because Lollback believes that nowadays, thanks to data, that "half" is more like a fifth now. 

But, he goes on to say that although 80% may be measurable, if it’s bad it’s still bad. “The magic of marketing is absolutely using the performance marketing tools that we have. Embrace the measurement, embrace the science, embrace the technology. But if you give up on creativity, and truly exciting and helping consumers create an emotional bond with your brand, product or service, then it all doesn't matter.”

Lollback illustrates his point by saying: “If I don’t have kids, not seeing a diaper advert is a good thing. But if I am in the market for a car, the car advert still needs to be really good. If the car looks ugly or doesn’t have what suits me then I don’t care how much science they put behind it, I’m not going to buy it.”

In other words, the data might reveal that you have buying intent, it may even show that you’re in the market for a specific type of car (such as a hatchback or a 4x4) but the final buying decision is emotive - you have to want that specific make and model. And the ‘want’ comes from exciting creatives and emotional connections.

And while he emphasises the importance of engaging creativity alongside the data, Lollback also warns against "the creepiness of marketing". 

“The other day something came into my Facebook feed about a cruise to Antarctica. I didn’t want to go on the cruise - I hate cruises - but I was just interested to see what they are doing in Antarctica, so I Googled it.

“And now, for the last three weeks the only thing I have seen in any of my feeds, is about cruises around the world. But I’m not going to go on a cruise, so they are really irritating me.

“That’s not responsible marketing, that’s data-driven marketing where they think they know me."

From this example Lollback highlights how much money these cruise companies are spending in an effort to get in front of him online, all because the data suggests he is a suitable target - despite hating cruises.

“That’s just wasting money,” he says. “All because 0s and 1s are telling companies from all around the world, to send these messages to this guy because he happened to suggest that he was interested in a cruise. That’s wrong, that’s not marketing, that’s stupidity.”

Instead he believes performance marketing should be used to gain deeper insights from the binary data and be used to examine the whole customer journey. “When you understand the whole journey for a product, at each step you can have really good insights, and therefore you can continually manipulate and fine-tune the marketing mix."

“So let’s celebrate the science,” he continues. “But if the science takes over we become less valuable. 

“At the end of the day marketing is a really simple concept; it’s about taking a finite amount of company resources and applying them against a need in a relevant way, with the relevant communication strategy - that hasn’t changed.

“The only thing that has changed is the number of channels that we have, the data that we have and the science that we have, to hopefully give the end user or the customer a better experience.”