PALM SPRINGS: Adobe Systems, the global software firm, has made digital a priority within its business and in doing so has elevated the role of its marketing department to new heights, a leading executive has said.

Adobe System's most senior managers became heroes to marketers the world over in the summer of 2013 with the observation that "the CMO will soon have a better pulse on the business than the CFO".

It's a valid statement, according to Ann Lewnes, Adobe CMO. "For the first time, marketing can justify that it is really driving the business," she told the 2014 Leadership Conference of the U.S. Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The key thing, she explained, was that a marketing department was ultimately responsible for the overall marketing return on investment. "And we actually can produce a document that says how we're doing…. how much money we spent, what was the value of that [investment], how efficient were we, and then how much did we deliver?" she said.

In a heartfelt aside, she observed that "marketers have been kicked around like plankton" but added that "[t]his was the first time that we began to feel really good about ourselves because we could demonstrate our value." (For more, including the full story of Adobe's transformation to a new business model, read the exclusive Warc article: How Adobe drove an all-digital transformation.)

To fully empower its marketing group, whole groups had needed to transform themselves – PR people had to become social experts, events people had to know how to do not just live events but also virtual events – to the extent that "every single marketing employee had to have a digital-first mentality. There were no excuses, no exceptions. It was a mandate."

To get a full suite of answers, Lewnes said, "the biggest change was the creation of a Marketing Insights and Operations, group… to do advanced modeling".

Determining how marketing-mix modeling would fit into the company's future was an early priority for the group. "They started that well ahead of the game and transformed a traditional kind of primary-market research group into an incredible think tank of Web analysis, database analysis, and marketing-technology automation," she said.

So powerful has this new unit become, she continued, that "they now are kind of the single source of truth at the whole company for all of our business".

Data sourced from Warc