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An Interview with Aaron Strout

CMO at W2O Group

January 19, 2018

Aaron has 20 plus years of social media, mobile, online marketing and advertising experience, with a strong background in integrated marketing. Prior to joining W2O, Aaron spent time as the CMO of Powered Inc. (now part of Dachis Group), VP of Social Media at online community provider, Mzinga, and as Director of Digital Marketing at Fidelity Investments.

Can you talk a little bit about your role as CMO of W2O Group?

Aaron Strout: My name is Aaron Strout, and I am the chief marketing officer of W2O Group. We are an integrated marketing communications agency. We work heavily in the world of health and tech. In my role, I manage campaigns, our website, thought-leadership events, our social channels and more.

What are your business priorities over the next 12 months?

Strout: Personally, I’m focusing on bringing rigor and measurement to everything we do on a day-to-day basis. In this digital world, it's easier than ever before to do. However, at the same time, there's so much out there; it can be daunting to know there's so much that can be measured. That’s where the challenge lies—telling a clear story with the right amount of context.

As a company, our priority is to be a great partner to our clients and continually make them smarter, continue to hire and retain great talent and then obviously maintain revenue growth while looking out for the health of the business. It’s funny; we’re the biggest 600-person company that some parts of the industry still haven't heard of. That is partially due to coming from the world of biotech PR. And now having diversified, W2O operates across the full health spectrum; we do a lot in tech, both B2B and B2C, and some consumer. We've really pushed hard into the digital space, which is one of the reasons why we love eMarketer.

What are the biggest challenges today for your business and in the overall digital media landscape?

Strout: There are hundreds, but one of the ones we run into most regularly is that marketers and heads of communication are increasingly being asked to do more with less. The “fluff” of 10, 15 and even 20 years ago is really starting to melt away at a lot of companies.

Now, this actually works to our advantage sometimes. Brands are starting to move away from the idea of an AOR, or agency of record. They're looking for multiple really good, smart partners, either big or small, to help them activate their creative ideas. Obviously, they need to be big enough to handle the scope of the projects, but can't be necessarily too big either. This model works for us because we are able to adapt and slot ourselves into a variety of different spaces. We're equipped to work with companies either on a project basis or a larger relationship basis.

Continuing on, not only are clients being asked to do more with less, we have a lot of clients that are working hard to prove that they are doing more with less. They’re constantly being asked, “What is effective?” “Is it moving the needle?” The answers to those questions can include metrics like brand awareness along with all sorts of brand health attributes, as well as whether marketing and advertising efforts are generating profits at the cash register. Or, for an agency, for example, are the efforts driving new business? At the end of the day, we need to be able to qualify our success in a way that makes sense to the CEO or CFO.

How does eMarketer help your business overcome these challenges?

Strout: One thing that comes to mind immediately is measurement. You’re giving us and our client greater levels of certainty when it comes to benchmarks and results. Here’s an example: Recently, we had a new business pitch for a client serving various populations, one of which skewed Hispanic. We knew we had to be intentional about the solutions we recommended, because this population had varying levels of internet access, smartphone ownership, etc.

I was able to access eMarketer’s data on this exact topic; I pulled information related to smartphone penetration and adoption among various demographics, and I was able to see additional breakdowns, including social media usage, as well. That information informed our social strategy, which took into account the channels, formats and subject matter of content we proposed.

In summary, eMarketer provides the clarity you need when sifting through data; you get real insights. That is valuable for us, as well as our clients. It helps us prove, qualitatively and quantitatively, that our direction is a good one.

How does eMarketer compare to other resources?

Strout: We use a variety of different services to compile data. eMarketer is unique in the fact that it is so focused on marketing and digital, which is really helpful for a business like mine. I also love that it gives users the ability to go in and “slice and dice” the data.

How do you make a case for eMarketer?

Strout: Yeah, I am the “throat to choke” on that front, so to speak. For any tool, my main question is, When I look at our CEO and CFO, can I confidently say this merits a spot out of my entire budget? Other questions include: Have we been able to use it to enhance one of our existing products? Have we been able to use it to help our existing clients, which makes us grow?

As for measuring ROI, eMarketer helps us win pitches and augments our understanding of digital. I also know there has been a lot of uptake across the organization, so that’s a good sign.

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Aaron Strout

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