TWIM 2024 Honoree Meredith Brace: Pioneering the Path to Data Inclusivity

To launch our Top Women Wednesdays article series, we spoke with Meredith Brace, CMO of XR Extreme Reach and TWIM honoree in the Tremendous Tech Marketers category. We discussed how she’s championing a more inclusive future through various data initiatives.

As the role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) continues to evolve in the fast-paced world of digital advertising, the expectations and challenges faced by today’s marketing leaders are growing increasingly complex. 

We had a very informative discussion with Brace, during which she shared her insights on how CMOs are now embracing the dual priorities of building strong brand visibility while also managing budgets to optimize top-line growth. She highlighted the innovative strategies employed at XR Extreme Reach to ensure authentic audience engagement, address diversity and inclusivity through comprehensive data analysis, and leverage AI to unlock valuable insights.

In this conversation, you’ll learn how XR Extreme Reach sets itself apart by providing a holistic solution for ad delivery and data management, ensuring compliance through meticulous adherence to standards, and fostering inclusivity as a driver for better business outcomes. 

“In general, we do believe inclusivity is good for business, whether that’s represented in Diversity & Inclusion  rules or just at the core of the company,” Brace said. “Inclusivity matters, and we’re committed to bringing the data to market to help companies understand that. We’ll do whatever we can to make sure inclusivity is prioritized.” 

This commitment is reflected in XR Extreme Reach’s efforts to expand its global D&I report to encompass broader themes like sustainability and creative intelligence, ensuring a comprehensive approach to inclusivity.

Join us as we explore Meredith Brace’s vision of the evolving role of the CMO and her commitment to inclusive, data-driven marketing practices that resonate with global audiences.

Yakira Young: The role of CMOs is undergoing a significant transformation these days. How has the role evolved over the past few years, from your perspective?

Meredith Brace: I can talk from my perspective as a CMO and from the perspective of our customers. With CMOs, we’re seeing this shift to Chief Growth Officers. We’re really thinking more about revenue than we’re thinking about awareness, visibility, and perception.

So, it’s really the idea of taking a budget, balancing those two perspectives, and doing what you need to establish the brand and some of those upper funnel metrics. As marketers, we must ask the question: What are we doing to engage the people that we need to do business with?

There’s a lot more pressure on revenue, and that’s why I feel like you see the CMO tenures maybe shortening. This is too bad because I think sometimes it takes a long time to build a system to do that properly and build the right team and the right skill sets. So that’s what I’m seeing from the larger picture.

YY: You mentioned the importance of brands and companies engaging with the people they do business with. What are some of the strategies at XR Extreme Reach to ensure authentic audience engagement?

MB: At XR, we deliver ads to any screen, any platform around the world reaching over 50,000 media destinations. We have access to all the metadata that is attached to managing those assets globally for brands.
What we’re doing is to serve that gold mine of data as it relates to an industry, a category, or even as it relates to a brand. If a brand uses 20 different agencies in 40 different markets, and they don’t have the transparency to see which of their assets were used or not, we can showcase that to them. On average, only 48% of all assets created in terms of commercial assets are used. And that’s pretty alarming. When you put that in front of a brand, they’re surprised.
After all, brands spend millions of dollars on those assets. So when you look at asset utilization and wastage, obviously, people care about impacting sustainability when you’re creating ads that aren’t used. We also look at the data in terms of representation and culture, who are you representing in your ads? That seems to resonate with people within a category and within an industry. Are we representing culture, or are we not?

YY: Speaking of data, we did a LinkedIn Live with Madeleine Want, the VP of data at Fanatics Betting & Gaming. We discussed behavioral data. Are you guys working with any behavioral data at all? And if not, what other forms of data are there? 

MB: We sit on a ton of data, so we have a lot of companies that want to leverage this. We can see every asset, and now we use AI to be able to read everything from skin tone using the Monk Skin Tone Scale (MST) as it’s a more inclusive 10-tone scale explicitly designed to represent a broader range of communities. We also look at body type, hair type, sustainability messaging, and gender expression, among many other data points.
Since we have this data, brands are asking us for insights. That’s a huge opportunity for us — not only the transparency to what is showing up in the ads but also performance-driven and how that relates to performance. Those are the conversations we’re excited to have with data partners and measurement companies.

YY: How do you go about finding the right data partners? 

MB: We have our head of product and a new business development team that is out there talking to people. Jo Kinsella, who’s our new President of our advertising business, came from TVSquared, which was sold to Innovid, so obviously, she has a ton of expertise in this area.
We work with 95 of the top 100 brands. We’ve rebranded to ensure that people know who XR is — not just for the delivery systems but all the metadata, the storage systems, global rights, as well as Entertainment and In-House Productions where we handle production payroll, management and finance.
There are so many things that come with producing and delivering assets around the world and we’re getting that core story out there. The next phase is taking the data and bringing it to life in many different ways. The team we are building is set up to do that successfully.

YY: What sets XR Extreme Reach apart from what’s already available on the market?

MB: Nobody does what we do in aggregate. There are some companies that do linear delivery, some do digital delivery, and there are some that just do talent payments, but nobody but us can do each of these.

That is the secret sauce for what we do because we touch every aspect of production, content management, and content delivery. That is how we can provide incredible visibility. If you’re using 20 partners for all those different things, it’s hard to know what’s happening. It’s hard to track the efficacy and the management of all those assets using a single partner, which many of our customers do. It just unlocks incredible insight and value and streamlines the business for them.

So it’s not just an ease of workflow; for us, what we’re uncovering is unlocking all this business intelligence. And so what’s exciting to us is that we have a lot of different siloed competitors, but nobody does what we do in total.

YY: How does XR Extreme Reach ensure compliance with its clients?

MB: Before my current role, I worked at a measurement company, which means I know the complexities of being MRC accredited. We’ve done the tough work to ensure that we are MRC accredited, which is wonderful. 

We have a new Chief Information & Security Officer (CISO), an incredible woman, Donna Kladis, who ensures that our privacy remains intact. We really have the best of the best because we sit on very precious data. We do everything we can to make sure that it is handled appropriately. We also work with lots of industry bodies like the IAB Tech Lab, CIMM, and everything else to make sure that we are up to the standards that our customers require.

YY: Is AI helping XR Extreme Reach overcome any specific data challenges?

MB: We use AI to look at the massive amounts of assets in the system. When we manage global assets for a customer, and you multiply that by all the customers we use, the only reason we can look at things like skin tone representation, gender expression, and sustainability messaging is that we use AI to do that. You wouldn’t be able to do that with people scoring every asset. So we use AI to help us get to that data in real time.

YY: Any new products or technological advances that pertain to DEI&B?

MB: We do a global D&I report every year. This year, we plan to expand that report to include more than just D&I. However, in the last few years, we have discovered that this data resonates with people. Our CEO spoke at the LinkedIn B2B conference recently about inclusivity in advertising and inclusivity in leadership. It’s expanded beyond just advertising into inclusivity, which is good for business. 

We’re also part of BRIDGE, a member-driven 501c6 that helps companies bridge the gaps that have created inequalities for underrepresented and untapped communities in the workplace. We can track the measurement aspect of it and prove that it’s good for business. So, the D&I Insights, while we thought it was really interesting and got it out into the world, we’re seeing so much traction and appetite for what we can do.

We are looking at all sorts of things because, for some brands, it was really important and critical for them to understand how they were being represented in the market. So it’s been great momentum for us, and it’s just helped build this creative intelligence pillar that we’re leading our go-to-market.