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An interview with Francesco Malerba, Head of EMEA Digital Media and MarTech Innovation at FCA.

Francesco Malerba, Head of EMEA Digital Media and Martech innovation in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, came in to the SBDS Milan office and spoke with our Italian sales guru, Luca Volante.

Francesco Malerba and Luca Volante have long known each other throughout their digital marketing careers. Having worked together during Luca’s time at Accenture, and since at SBDS Group, the two quickly built a trusted relationship. The two have worked on several projects together, spanning across Data Management Platform (DMP) integrations, programmatic buying – and generally – overall digital transformation.

So let’s find out about Francesco’s FCA journey to date, his partnership with Luca and the SBDS Group family, and what the future holds.

Luca: Francesco, it’s a pleasure to see you again on this hot day in July. I just want to clarify that I am by no means a journalist, so I may ask you some strange and wonderful questions. So prepare yourself!

I’m honoured to say “Welcome to the SBDS Group Blog”! In fact, this is our first Q&A on the blog – are you excited!?

Francesco: I do in fact feel all the responsibility on me as the first interviewee of your career. It is a mix between emotion and fear of the upcoming questions!

Luca: So, creating a little context for our readers, we met three years ago during my time at Accenture. After an insightful three-hour meeting (and an amazing lunch), we discussed FCA’s opportunities and challenges and your role within the organisation. My first question to you, is how has your role changed over the past three years? How has the business transformed?

Francesco: Those three years feels like centuries! I remember our first meeting well: July 2016, an extremely warm summer and that typical sense of loss you have in approaching a new company – and a huge one at that – during the first week after the on-boarding.

So much has changed since; the company, the digital landscape and myself.

Working at FCA is surely a tough challenge, but at the same time, an immeasurable opportunity of both personal and professional growth. In FCA I found the right environment and the right management to be able to understand how digital evolution and innovations were, are and will be, one of the key drivers of our business success. My role is to accelerate and drive my business towards a solid digital transformation – and to create a distinctive competency, within the automotive industry. We need to be able to stand out amongst the competition as we move into business strategy 3.0.

Luca: Thinking about the time you joined FCA, what changes have taken place within the organisation?

Francesco: Compared to 2016, we have a brand-new team – and a great one at that. Young, ambitious and extremely focused on innovation. Being able to continuously look for innovative solutions to support our business need, to look for discontinuity in daily operations and aspire to top performance – these are the characteristics we want to encourage in our team and attitude to help drive the business forward.

Luca: Is there a particular time during these three years at FCA, that stands out to you?

Francesco: Too many to pin point one! However, there are two that stand out above the rest. Firstly, there was the day I presented the DMP Project to the Senior Management team, and after months of work finally received the green-light to activating the technology!

It was such a wonderful feeling to have the business support behind me.

Second to this, was the day I was selected, among many candidate colleagues from all over the EMEA Region to become an MBA Student. I was dreaming that moment since I was 19 years old!

Luca: You mentioned in the question above about receiving the green-light to kick start your DMP project, which must have felt amazing. As you know, SBDS Group have been closely aligned with FCA throughout the implementation and integration of this project, so I wanted to get your thoughts on what impact this has had on you and your business.

Two questions from me. Firstly, what initial results did your business see during this first phase of the project?

Francesco: Although it may seem quite common, firstly I would highlight the success and seamless process of the DMP implementation. The inherent project’s technicalities and the complex perimeters – with many brands and markets involved and the coordination of many different factors – all drastically increased the fragmentation and complexity of the project. This was no easy task, and we worked together to get this complete in quite a seamless manner!

Secondly, after just a few weeks, the platform itself proved its potential in better addressing our advertising, leading us towards an average 30% media efficiency on CPA -within test campaigns perimeter- and x4 in conversion rate. It was fantastic to see such results so quickly.

Luca: I completely agree and it was a pleasure to work on this project with you. My second question is, to understand what type of support from SBDS Group was most valued by you and your team?

Francesco: SBDS has been a crucial partner in implementing the DMP, taking the responsibility of the technical infrastructure setup and being our technical arm in succeeding during such a crucial phase. SBDS was able to quickly integrate the DMP operations with Starcom WW, our media agency, in charge of strategic framework and following platform management. It made the world of difference having a trusted partner to take the heavy lifting off our hands, and who kept in mind our business objective throughout the entire process.

Luca: A few days ago FCA supported SBDS in winning a really important pitch: DMP implementation for Jeep, Alfa Romeo , Fiat and Fiat Professional throughout 11 markets. In addition to this, we have been considered to manage the DMP to success in each market. Driving success of the DMP is a crucial part of the process here at SBDS Group, and it can often be the most complex.

What do you expect from the DMP in this second phase of the project?

Francesco: Our next biggest challenge is growing across new markets and collaborating with new brands. Our role is to make sure this will happen efficiently in order to exploit our tech stack to optimise our media and support us in achieving all our business goals. We really want to empower our data, so we can truly unlock its value. To do this, we need smart data experts and the confidence to expand.

Luca: A company like SBDS Group?

Francesco: In a world of innovative technology, and machine learning algorithms, we still have a desire and demand for human intelligence. This is why skilled and committed resources are our main requirement when selecting our partners for strategic digital projects.

We need smart teams that strive for results and operate with flexibility, accountability and willing to succeed with us. And this is what we found in SBDS Group.

Luca: From your point of view, what is the future of the DMP in the next three years?

Francesco: A lot can happen in three years when you reside in digital media! Things can change monthly, leading us towards new challenges and demands. I personally consider the DMP, to be the ‘beating heart’ of the tech stack, and being part of a much bigger architecture. Our role, as digital innovators of such a challenging industry, is to drive our businesses towards the most effective synergy between technologies and outcomes. The DMP is the building foundation – then come the design elements, the look and feel, the furniture, its function etc. – this is where we want to go next.

Luca: So, moving away from the data world, let’s get to know you more. You are from Genoa, but you live in Turin (I will not talk about football). Is it true that Ligurian people can’t live far from the sea? Is it not a myth?

Francesco: I can confirm they cannot. We are simply addicted to the sea, and we have to regularly go back to our home towns and spend hours on the beach. This is something that people from Milan, as you are if I am not wrong, cannot understand!

Luca: And what about cooking? Are you able to cook a real “pesto alla genovese”?

Francesco: This is definitely a no-comment.

Luca: Excellent! And finally, you work for the biggest Italian automotive company, but most importantly, what is your favourite car?

Francesco: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. 707hp of pure adrenaline.

Luca: Francesco, thank you so much for doing this interview today.

We have a jam-packed few months ahead of us as we work together on this amazing project. Let’s meet again in six months’ time for another Q&A, and see where FCA are and that the future holds.

Thank you for reading!

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