‘This is the next chapter’: Philips media chief on platform changes, GDPR and agency models

Digiday covers that latest from marketing and media at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. More from the series →

Chief marketing officers have been out in force at the Cannes Lions festival this week.

Digiday caught up with Blake Cahill, svp and global head of digital marketing and media at health tech conglomerate Philips to discuss the company’s approach to the General Data Protection Regulation, Facebook’s response to advertisers post-Cambridge Analytica and the trend of marketers bringing their advertising in-house.

Will you have any difficult questions for Facebook executives while you’re in Cannes?
Facebook were very transparent through the Cambridge Analytica process with all brands. I think it’s a bit of a bruising for them. But they have taken it to heart and making changes to the platform. So that’s good to see. We haven’t seen any material change — it’s more a brand reputation hit for them. They recognize they need to continue that level of transparency and platform change. This is the next chapter.

What’s your take on Amazon’s media ambitions?
The challenge brands will face is, a lot of these digital and e-commerce platforms — it’s very easy to invest in conversion and optimize at the end of the funnel. I want to build awareness. So one of the challenges for brands is managing the investment across the full funnel. If you don’t, you may have a short-term win in terms of conversion, but how long that lasts, I don’t know. It’s really important to maintain the right balance of spend across the funnel and not put all the eggs in one platform because it gets great conversion.

What’s your GDPR strategy been?
We have an enormous amount of systems that data passes through. Going through so many systems to sanity-check everything was compliant was a huge undertaking. If a customer tells us they want out of our systems, it’s like we have to get a plumber and somehow flush them out of this entire London Underground-like system. It means going through every single connection. That was a big challenge for us.

Being a data controller, are you concerned the liability will lie with you for how other partners use data?
We have data processor agreements, and we had a few occasions where they would say you’re responsible, and we’d say, “No, no, you are.” But given we’re in health, we already hold very high Dutch privacy standards. We enforce globally our European and Dutch privacy policies, so we’re already a bit tougher on ourselves to begin with. The volume of people who have actually raised their hand [to opt out] has gone up a little, but it was never like we were processing hundreds of thousands of requests to begin with. We have a fairly rigorous service for managing opt-outs. We don’t buy lists or list augmentation to put people in our database.

Did you pull any marketing when the law arrived?
We watched it closely, but it has been very stable.

Have you shed any vendors to get compliant?
We have a pretty tight picture of our technical landscape, so we had a lot of compliance checklist conversations as we needed assurances that we could actually, if a person asked to be, ensure they were taken off the London Underground forever. So we had to go vendor to vendor for CRM, for e-commerce, our data store, identity systems — approximately to 50 suppliers in total. We have reduced it quite significantly and have buttoned down a lot.

What is the main pressure for brand marketers now?
Business models are being disrupted. A big trend continues to be what capabilities should be in-house. What is the role of media and creative agencies? Everyone is bleeding into everyone. What’s your role as a brand if you in-house a lot of capabilities? What pressures will that create? There is a lot of shifting going on. But generally, the seat at the table for marketing has never been more powerful than it is now.


More in Marketing

In the marketing world, anime is following in the footsteps of gaming

As marketers look to take advantage of anime’s entry into the zeitgeist, they might be wise to observe the parallels between the evolution of anime as a marketing channel and the ways brands have learned to better leverage gaming in recent years. 

With the introduction of video ads and e-commerce, Roblox looks to attain platform status

Roblox is expanding into more areas than just ads in 2024. Much like platforms such as Amazon and Facebook have transcended their origins to evolve from their origins as online marketplaces and social media channels, Roblox is in the midst of a transformation into a platform for all elements of users’ virtual lives.