A transformation of marketing is underway as we spend more time on our mobiles, tablets and laptops. The challenge for brands is to connect with customers through all these devices in real time and create campaigns that work across social media, display advertising and e-commerce.

The real-time conversations brands have with people as they interact with websites and mobile apps has changed the nature of marketing. The modern-day marketing department needs to combine the creative side of the discipline – using powerful narratives to tap into people’s wishes and aspirations – with the technical side of data, digital engineering and analytics. The two areas do not always sit easily together. Getting creative marketers to work alongside technical staff can be a huge challenge.

To explore these issues, the Guardian, in association with software firm Adobe, invited a panel of five top marketers and digital chiefs to discuss the matter before an audience of about 50 marketing and digital professionals. The question they addressed was: “What does the merging of technology and marketing mean for marketers?”

The panel examined the challenges of bringing together these two distinct worlds. Marketing is concerned with understanding people’s motivations and using these insights to create campaigns that promote brands and encourage people to buy their products. It is a creative and often intuitive process. The technology used to achieve this, however, requires skills in mathematics, statistics and computing. How can these two different areas work together effectively?

As Guardian News and Media’s chief digital officer Tanya Cordrey told the panel: “Where marketing hasn’t changed is the creativity and the passion from brands that have really helped build loyalty and emotion.” But she added: “Those things you still need, but almost all aspects of marketing have changed very dramatically.”

Three areas of marketing which have been transformed by digital are the speed, relevance and reach of campaigns. Mark Singleton, head of sportsbook marketing at betting brand Paddy Power, recalled an incident in the Premiership last March when Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew headbutted Hull City midfielder David Meyler in a touchline clash. Within half an hour, Paddy Power had reacted to the incident with wit and speed by booking print ads referring to the incident for the next morning’s press. The bookie offered a money-back guarantee on bets for Newcastle’s following fixture should one of its team score a header.

“To be able to turn around a press ad at half past four in the afternoon and for it to be in the papers the next morning is fantastic, it wouldn’t have happened four or five years ago,” said Singleton. “The rise of digital means you can be incredibly fast,” he added.

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