In January, Merkle appointed Liz Rutgersson to the position of Chief Media Officer of Merkle Americas, where she will focus on driving client success while overseeing the full adoption and implementation of Merkle’s unique approach to performance media. We asked Liz a few questions to learn what she is focusing on in the new year.
What should brands be thinking about when it comes to media as we enter 2021?
2021 will be a year like no other for obvious reasons. The customer journey hasn’t been linear for a long time due to rapid change of the digital ecosystem, but more than ever brands need to focus on their digital transformation journey to be successful in 2021. Media consumption continues to evolve. We’re at a point where we have to balance customers’ demand for an integrated and consistent experience at every touchpoint with being relevant enough to capture those who are willing to complete the purchase journey in a single moment, like a fantastically placed social media ad.
Brands must continue to use data to inform their media decisions. They must have a media maturity strategy and a partner who can support them on that path. They must break internal siloes to build connected media strategies for finding, winning, keeping, and growing their customers.
2020 was a big year for consumer behavior disruption and some brands were able to respond quicker than others. What brands do you think stood out during this difficult time?
The obvious standouts were brands that keep us connected to who we love and what we need and were able to make an agile digital transition. My Facebook Portal was the most important tech of 2020 to connect to family and friends, and of course we can’t not mention the rise of Zoom. Big e-retailers were built to capitalize on the situation, so of course Amazon and supermarkets with great digital experiences were quick responders.
What stands out to me most, though, are the small, local, agile businesses who had to adapt in an entrepreneurial way to keep their businesses alive. I spent 2020 in a locked-down London and was in awe of my local coffee shop that turned into a supermarket to provide essentials to the neighborhood, and my yoga studio that was quick to adapt to digital classes to keep their customers connected and in good mental health through the year. Those are the businesses that inspire me most.
What excites you most about leading Merkle's Media and Planning practice?
Most importantly, we have an incredible group of people at Merkle. Our team’s passion for excellence and hunger for constant learning is what has always excited me about Merkle and motivated me to stay for over 11 years. Our Media practice is completely unique in our market and I don’t think anyone is as well placed to ensure media lives at the heart of customer experience transformation. Our ability to connect what we do in singular media channels, use advanced analytics for measurement, and connect to Merkle’s data foundation makes Merkle the most exciting place to be in media.
People would like to know how you got here, leading media at a customer experience management company. What was your journey like?
I studied International Business and had an ambition early on to get international work experience. I grew up in Iowa and started my career in the Midwest, but moved to London and landed in paid media in the early days of SEM. I joined agency land when Periscopix was a growing UK independent SEM shop. I was fortunate to work with an amazing team and built my career with that group of people, launching our programmatic, paid social, strategy, and operational capabilities over 11 years and through the acquisition by Merkle and, subsequently, dentsu. I’m so excited to be joining our US team and landed here at the start of the year. My career has been built on deep expertise and I love bringing that foundation to leadership.
What would you say to the women who are early in their careers in media and agency roles and aspire to be Chief Media Officer?
No career journey is down to one individual. My advice is to surround yourself with a fantastic support network of people who back you. This, of course, includes supportive friends and family who bring you positive energy and encourage you in your journey. I’ve learned through my career that a high level of self-awareness is something to constantly invest in, as it allows you to purposefully surround yourself with people who compliment your strengths and support your weaknesses. It’s easy to connect to individuals who are like you, but you learn the most from people who are different. Intentionally building a diverse support network is, I believe, the key to career growth. Finally, bring great people on your journey with you, and always back them.