Silver Apples 2019

Silver Apples.jpg

Meet the DMCNY 2019 Silver Apple Honorees

By Claudia Conlon | 10.4.19

Each year the DMCNY presents its highly distinguished Silver Apple Awards to several professionals who have at least 25 years in marketing and who not only have excelled in their careers, but also have generously contributed their talents and time to the marketing industry. We'll be introducing you to the 2019 honorees over the next few weeks, in advance of DMCNY's annual Silver Apples gala on November 7 at Edison Ballroom in New York. 


Britt Vatne

President, Data Management, ALC

Britt Vatne.jpg

Britt Vatne is proof that creative and data are two sides of an invaluable coin. Over the course of her successful career, she has used her expertise in blending creativity and analytics to support powerful direct response marketing. That savvy help Vatne excel at data management business Novus. ALC acquired the flourishing company; Vatne not only helped to established ALC as a leader in data management, but she also ascended to become president of its data management practice and a partner at the company.

Vatne is active in the nonprofit sector, as well, serving as chair and an active member of several marketing- and nonprofit-related associations, including DMFA, ANA, and TNPA. She also dedicates time to mentoring colleagues to help them develop in their careers. 

In a conversation with MKTGinsight for DMCNY, Vatne shared some career history, advice, and insights. 

What drew you to marketing? 

I’ve always been good with numbers and started out in college as a finance major with the goal of becoming a CPA. But I quickly came to understand that if I had to spend my days working with spreadsheets and nothing else, that was going to bore the hell out of me. I figured out that with marketing, specifically direct response marketing, you could tie in the analytics side of it with the creative side of it — and, voilà, I'm a marketer. 


Tell us about a particular career highlight or turning point.

It doesn't come down to one moment, but more one client that pivoted the direction of my career. Until about 15 years ago, all of my work was with commercial clients. But then I started working with the nonprofit March of Dimes on their list management and gained an understanding how critical donors are and how they relate to the mission. 

Being able to see the direct correlation of their mission to the results of their campaigns, feeling like a part of it, I no longer felt like I was marketing to make money — I was helping to market to, hopefully, change the world. 


What excites you most about marketing right now?

Marketing, the way we used to do it and the metrics we used to look at, is so different from what we do today. Even so, I feel like some organizations are really trying to hang on to their silos: There's the online marketing group and the offline marketing group, for example. But we've reached that pivotal point where there’s a conversion of media across channels. 


Fortunately, some organizations are starting to look at things more holistically. They're buying solutions based on holistic opportunities of on- and offline. And they're understanding that their customers or their donors are not their customers or donors in a single channel; they interact across channels. And their most treasured donors or customers are probably those who are interacting across channels. 

So, what excites me most is seeing organizations that are bringing products to market that are helping organizations understand that intersection — and what the resulting shift over the next couple of years is going to mean for our industry. And I'm excited to be part of that. 


Share a treasured customer story.

For my first-ever client meeting, I was going to take a magazine publisher out to lunch on my own. I was so excited and eager to have this opportunity, and I dressed especially professionally for the day. 

The client flew into New York from California. We met in the office for a half hour and then we had lunch reservations two blocks over. I was talking to my client while we were walking, not paying attention to where I was walking. They were laying cement down on the road and I literally fell into the cement. Next thing that happens is I was being hosed off in the middle of Park Avenue with my client standing there. We couldn't go to the restaurant because, obviously, now I'm a mess. I had to take the client back to my office and we ordered in sandwiches from a deli. She flew out that night and got food poisoning from the sandwich. 

But she stayed a client. So, I figure, if I can survive that outing, how bad can it really get.


Tell us a favorite story about data.

I’ll take you back to a situation I had very early on with Parsons Technology. They were a software developer that did a lot of financial and tech software products and had a lucrative data management program. But the owner was totally convinced that his customers were his customers, and only his customers: He had found these customers, and they were so loyal to him that he didn't want to share them with anybody. He didn't want to exchange them or rent his lists. 

We convinced him to let us run some tests and let the data tell us that. He agreed. We took every customer that came in and assigned them a customer number and put only those with an even number into the rental and exchange program. 


We ran analyses of every order for four years and, without fail, the response rate on the customers that were put into the rental and exchange program had a similar or better response rate than those customers he was holding back. And he was earning millions of dollars from the customers he was putting into the rental and exchange program. 

So, his opportunity cost by holding half of those customers back was millions of dollars every year. It took four years of data for him to finally believe and put all of his customers into the program. The test helped to dispel a preconceived notion that these customers are your customers and only your customers. 


What’s your go-to marketing metric?

The one that we get back to often, specifically with our nonprofit clients, is the long-term value of the donor. Most nonprofit organizations lose money on their acquisition programs. They're trying to make sure that there are donors in the funnel to be able to move into repeat giving or mid-level giving programs or major gifts that eventually into a planned-giving program.


Often, especially with nonprofits, you're dealing with a board that’s not made up of traditional direct response marketers. So, the idea of losing money on trying to acquire a donor doesn't sit well. Being able to look at analyses based on 12 months, 24 months, 36 months and then, ultimately, an LTV helps to explain why it makes sense to invest in that acquisition cost upfront. 

It allows you to show why these programs are important; If you don't have these people in the funnel, you won't have major-gifts donors, you won't have planned giving, for example, because a lot of these donors come from the direct mail program.


What advice do you have for someone who's just starting out in marketing?

Something that I've had many mentors and bosses tell me over the years: Read everything you can and ask lots of questions. With our access to quick information, all the blogs, the morning briefings, that sort of thing, you can easily get a heads up in various sectors or in market categories and be in-the-know on what's going on around you. It'll help you add value, ask your clients the right questions about what they're dealing with, and have a benchmark to be understanding about what's going on outside of your environment.


What was the piece of business advice that you’ve received?

I had a mentor early on who told me that your job is not just about what you do in the office every day, but it's also about getting involved in the broader community. So, volunteer at associations and events and that'll come back and pay you dividends professionally. I found that to be true. 

Plus, some of my best friendships have been forged through the various associations that I've either volunteered at or had positions in. So, I make the time to participate in associations because I get just as much out of it personally as I do professionally. 


Share an inspiring quote or personal motto that guides you.

Always assume that the person you're interacting with has good intentions, that we can all respectfully disagree and have different points of view. 

If you believe that everybody is coming from a place of good, then it's going to be a professional dialogue. Don't assume that somebody is out to get you or that the disagreement is personal. 

We have different points of view, so let's hear each other out, be respectful and transparent, and we'll come out in a good place. It's all about just listening.


What’s surprising about you?

I am a first-generation American and the first in my family to attend college. The first language I ever spoke was Norwegian; my parents were right off the boat.


Share a few of your interests outside work. 

I love, love, love to travel; to visit new places, see new things, meet new people. I just got back from an 11-day trip to Ireland, where I toured all over the major cities there. My daughter and I tend to travel a lot together, even just getting away for a long weekend. 


What is your hidden skill? 

I'm definitely a shopaholic, but with that skill comes the innate ability to ferret out amazing deals. 

Meet the other 2019 DMCNY Silver Apple honorees:

  • Carl Horton Jr., Associate Partner, IBM

  • Gretchen Littlefield, CEO, Moore DM Group 

  • Joe Pych, Cofounder and CEO, Bionic Advertising Systems, and Founder and CEO, NextMark 

  • 2019 Apple of Excellence, Advocacy: 
    Tony Hadley, Senior Vice President, Regulation & Public Policy, Experian

  • 2019 Apple of Excellence Disruptor: 
    Mayur Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, Freshly

  • Corporate Golden Apple: 
    Marketing EDGE

Claudia Conlon.jpeg

About the Author

Claudia Conlon is a sales operations associate at luxury aviation company Wheels Up; she also authors DMCNY's Silver Apple award profiles. Her wide-ranging work experience—from customer service to social marketing to event production—gives her a broad perspective on the interplay of consumers and businesses and how customer experience impacts the economy. This experience and her drive and desire to succeed makes her comfortable taking on new challenges.