Ann Lewnes

Facebook barely scratching the surface of revenue, sales chief says

January 7, 2014: 9:05 AM ET

It's still early days in the Wild West of digital marketing. At CES, Fortune's Jessi Hempel sits down with top execs from Facebook, Ford, and Adobe to learn why.

Adobe's Ann Lewnes, Ford's Jim Farley, Facebook's Carolyn Everson, and Fortune's Jessi Hempel at a Brainstorm Tech panel at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Adobe's Ann Lewnes, Ford's Jim Farley, Facebook's Carolyn Everson, and Fortune's Jessi Hempel at a Brainstorm Tech panel at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

FORTUNE -- It's 2014. Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB) and Twitter are kings of the world. Print media and television are dying. You'd think we'd have this marketing-with-digital media thing figured out by now.

We don't.

As a preview to our Brainstorm Tech conference in July, Fortune gathered three of the sharpest minds in big business in Las Vegas on Monday night to discuss the interplay between technology and marketing. And wouldn't you know it, the heads of marketing for Facebook, Ford Motor (F), and Adobe (ADBE) landed on a common conclusion regarding the techno-age for pushing products: We've got a long way to go, baby.

The setting? The annual Consumer Electronics Show, where hardware geeks are with every passing year getting pushed out by technology-oriented executives from other industries, including marketers. Taken through their paces by Jessi Hempel, Fortune's social media and digital marketing ace, the three marketing execs -- Carolyn Everson of Facebook, Ford's Jim Farley, and Ann Lewnes of Adobe -- celebrated what's good about the shift from old media to new. Then they identified the many shortcomings of the slow-motion revolution, in which time spent digitally by consumers still isn't matched by money spent digitally by marketers. There still isn't enough collaboration between the marketing department and the IT group, the executives argued. Each is stuck in its way. Talent, from corporate marketing to hidebound advertising agencies, isn't getting with the program. And the very definition of marketing is expanding slowly, with pushing levers to sell more cereal on one end of the spectrum and slicing and dicing data in profitable ways on the other.

MORE: At CES, in search of the next big thing

To hear Facebook's Everson tell it, the social media company is barely scratching the surface of what it could accomplish in terms of making money. What's missing, she says, is the ability of companies like hers to get credit for advertising that runs on its website that, in turn, affects buyer decisions alongside other factors, like TV. The industry jargon for this is "multi-touch attribution." Everson says it's not where it needs to be. "I tell clients, 'You shouldn't give us a single dollar unless you think we're moving the business." To do this, Facebook needs to be given credit where credit is due.

For companies older than Facebook, such as Ford and Adobe, retraining non-digital natives is a common concern. Ford's Farley said "front-line" brand managers still want to take the "safe" way out when introducing something as important as a new vehicle. In other words, they want to buy TV ad spots with most of their budget and merely experiment with digital. As for Adobe, Lewnes said that even though the software maker now spends 75% of its marketing budget on digital products, it still struggles with training the new personnel necessary to market in the digital world. "To be frank, a lot of people didn't want to be re-skilled," she said. Adobe also has hired new kinds of people, including econometricians to crunch data that predicts buying patterns. "These types of people didn't exist before at Adobe," she said.

The digital revolution is still coming to the marketing industry. It just isn't happening overnight.

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