CMO50 #12: Joe Pollard, Telstra

  • Name Joe Pollard
  • Title Group managing director, media and marketing
  • Company Telstra
  • Commenced role November 2014
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function Approximately 300 staff
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    One of the most important measures of customer engagement and marketing’s contribution to the business bottom line for Telstra’s Joe Pollard is brand consideration.

    “With a customer base spanning the smallest of consumer customers to the country’s largest organisations, Telstra’s customer segments are the most diverse of any Australian telco and our aim is to grow brand consideration across the board,” the CMO says. “We will do this by re-energising the brand and focusing our marketing on the things that matter for our customers.”

    Pollard joined Telstra as its group manager of media and marketing 12 months ago, and was promoted to CMO and group executive of media in October this year.

    Prior to joining the telco, she was CEO of Publicis Mojo, and built a career in marketing, media and digital across Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, US and Japan with the likes of Nike, Nine Entertainment Co and ninemsn.

    Empowered and long-term thinking

    From an operational perspective, it’s critical Telstra’s marketing investment drives a return on investment at all levels, Pollard said in her CMO50 submission. To facilitate this, the CMO function operates a longer-term view of marketing initiatives across the business to optimise execution and maximise returns across all assets and investments, she said.

    “As Telstra continues to deliver on its global ambition, we find ourselves operating across a growing international footprint,” Pollard stated. “This presents equal challenges as it does opportunities, requiring significant organic and inorganic customer growth across a large and diverse group of countries with low levels of brand awareness.

    “We have aggressive but realistic targets to support Telstra’s global growth ambitions and accelerate the growth of the Telstra brand in international markets by 2020.”

    Pollard suggests Telstra’s off to a good start, being one of only two companies in Australia to be named in this year’s Millward Brown BrandZ Top 100 global brands and ranked as the world’s 18th most valuable telco brand.

    To maintain momentum, innovation must be a fundamental part of communicating and staying connected to Telstra’s customers, Pollard says.

    “When you stop innovating, your customers will stop engaging with your message,” she says.

    Top CMO attributes

    Pollard sees the top attributes of a modern CMO as a mix of personal and business leadership.

    “These are namely courage, a strong point of view and resilience,” she says. “Acute listening skills and stakeholder management and are also essential traits.”

    From the CMO50 submission

    Business contribution and innovation

    In addition to her role as CMO, Pollard heads up Telstra’s strategy and portfolio of media content and platforms including subscription TV, IPTV, mobile apps including music, sport, news and entertainment content.

    Pollard’s leadership approach is about using media as a differentiator for Telstra’s products, as highlighted by three recent achievements in her CMO50 submission. The first is the telco’s strategy to host all subscription video-on-demand services on its platforms through its streaming product, Telstra TV, which it expects will disrupt early business models in the Australian industry.

    A second media initiative led by Pollard was Telstra’s negotiations with the AFL to secure a six-year mobile and digital rights agreement to provide exclusive live streaming of all AFL matches to mobile devices. Content partnerships with the AFL and NRL show continued growth, with live video views increasing by more than 70 per cent and 100 per cent respectively in FY15.

    In August, Telstra also became the first telco globally to offer memberships to Apple Music membership to customers.

    “This has created a differentiated service in market that gives customers a brilliant music experience by combining the popular music streaming service with Australia’s best mobile network,” Pollard said in her submission.

    Modern marketing and customer engagement thinking and effectiveness

    As Telstra’s CMO, Pollard said she is bringing an unwavering focus on the need to nurture and grow the brand and ensure marketing investments directly drive ROI.

    To do this, Telstra’s leadership team has developed a new marketing framework and ways of working designed to refocus on its purpose as a brand, invigorate brand consideration and accelerate brand growth in international markets. The framework is driven by a mantra of fewer, bigger, better and is being delivered through four key marketing platforms that put customers at the heart of every activity marketing undertakes, Pollard said.

    “The foundation to this new approach lies across new levels of collaboration, an aligned mindset and active personal leadership,” she said in her submission.

    To further cross-channel and collaborative thinking, Pollard has reorganised the marketing department to integrate paid, owned and earned assets into a single team to maximise marketing ROI.

    “Within the vast sponsorship portfolio, the integration of marketing and media content is being realised along with a focus on data partnership to improve ROI on the investments,” she said. “We are already seeing results of this approach in results for our ‘Telstra Air’ marketing campaign. Indicators such as recognition, branding and likeability are outstanding and without precedent.”

    Data and/or technology driven approach

    An example of technology in action presented by Pollard was streaming video, an important growth area for Telstra. Following the launch of Netflix in Australia and using a data-driven approach with insights into how streaming video growth would impact Telstra’s networks, the telco established an external-facing dialogue with consumers and the industry.

    “This activity – executed in partnership by Telstra’s Media and Networks team – aimed to reinforce confidence in Telstra’s network investment and leadership, establish a leadership position for the company as a leading provider of streaming video, and highlight choice for consumers by promoting a value stack of content from streaming service to premium Pay TV,” Pollard said.

    Beyond industry and consumer education, internal alignment on Telstra’s position and product offering was also critical, and Pollard and Telstra’s head of Networks, Mike Wright, embarked on a program of internal education activities with the executive team.

    Listening to customers has been another important component to marketing’s approach. The ‘Check-In’ initiative launched this year, for instance, saw Telstra conduct one-on-one health checks with millions of customers on current products and services to give customers an opportunity to adjust plans to get better value.

    The program ran nationally and saw more than 460,000 checked in with Telstra across 371 stores during the 2015 financial year.


    As a former agency head and media CEO now on the client side, Pollard boasts of a view of marketing from all sides and how creativity fits in the mix.

    “I think the formula remains simple: We need good ideas and great relationships to execute at a world-class level,” she said. “Our work is becoming less about the channel and more about the content and brand stories, underpinned with insights from truly understanding customer behaviour. But as much as some things change, others – like teamwork, our collective creativity and the ability to tell great stories – stay the same.

    “I encourage my team to work hand-in-glove with agencies because great marketing isn’t just done inside marketing departments. This approach delivers better insights and a deeper process to grow the ideas and stories we use to connect with consumers.”

    Pollard pointed to the ‘Telstra Thanks’ program as an important layer of marketing enablement activities focused on giving customers experiences they can enjoy because they’re a Telstra customer. To date, customers have accessed more than 4.7 million tickets or experiences since the launch of the program in 2013.

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