Chief Digital Officers: The New Black

Today the City of New York named its first Chief Digital Officer.

The term chief digital officer appears to have been first widely used by the advertising industry in 2007 to describe those individuals responsible for an ad agency’s digital services.

From OMMA July 1, 2007:

The rise of digital pros at traditional agencies signals a new era for new media

In the not-too-distant past, clients had just a few expectations of agencies handling their digital marketing: build an easy-to-navigate Web site, create some catchy online ads and place the ads on relevant sites.

But increasingly, knowledgeable marketers are demanding more of their new-media ad dollars, such as mobile-device campaigns and connecting with consumers through blogs.

And those spearheading agency digital efforts are no longer just tech-savvy hipsters doing their own thing while the rest of the company goes about its business. Well, they may still be edgier, but they now have their own keys to the executive washroom.

Several large agencies have named chief digital officers to fully integrate interactive into the services they offer. Among the recent examples: New York-based Ogilvy North America hired Jean-Philippe Maheu for its new CDO position. Arnold in Boston named Jonathan Sackett its CDO. San Francisco’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners tapped Michael Parker as its new director of digital strategy. And Y&R, New York, appointed Tarik Sedky as its CDO to lead a new digital entity.

“The CDO is now expected to oversee what once were multiple divisions of companies,” says Sackett, formerly director of digital operations at Draft FCB in Chicago. “There may have been an ‘emerging media’ group, a ‘Web marketing’ group, an ‘SEO/SEM’ group. The new position of CDO is designed to help unify these offerings and develop both depth and breadth in the digital marketing mix.”

He adds: “To be a chief digital officer type of position, you can’t just specialize in Web or mobile or creative or strategy. You really have to be fairly knowledgeable in each of those silos.”

Goodby’s Parker, who was managing director of Tribal ddb in Canada, says it’s time for senior-level agency positions focusing on interactive advertising.

“Years ago, I think you could get away with a lot more. It was still kind of the Wild West. Clients probably had a lot more tolerance for experimentation, but also [for] making mistakes,” Parker says. “Today, they have the same level of expectation of the Web group as they do of how the agency’s going to deliver in TV or anything else.”

A Google image search for “Chief Digital Officer” produces a slew of Chief Digital Officers.

Chief Digital Officers

Chief Digital Officers

Of all the possible terms that could be used to describe digital experts, Chief Digital Officer sounds like the one most likely to stand the test of time.

I like the term so much, I bought the domain


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