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357: The Science of What Works in Advertising with Jon Evans, Chief Customer Officer, System1 Group

357: The Science of What Works in Advertising with Jon Evans, Chief Customer Officer, System1 Group

In this episode, Jon and I discuss System1, how they drive insights for marketers on the brand side, and what works in advertising today. Jon tells us about the differences he experienced from the client side to the agency side and gives an honest look into what it means to be a CMO day to day. He explains why the skills that make a great marketer aren’t necessarily the same as those that make a great CMO and how balancing the long-term view of the brand with the daily execution of tasks can make the CMO job very lonely. CMOs, removed from the “doing,” must focus on creating the conditions for success and representing the customer in the room where decisions are made. Jon tells us that successful CMOs quickly recognize talent on their team, harness creativity to drive business outcomes and understand that advertising is both an art and a science.

Jon Evans is the Chief Customer Officer at System1 Group and host of the ‘Uncensored CMO’ podcast. For years before that, he was a client-side agency CMO. One of Jon’s most formative roles was with Lucozade, where he learned the power of asking the right questions and why managing perception, not reality, is important in advertising. During his agency days, Jon was shocked to find out how little most agencies understood their clients, and he was perplexed by the hesitancy he saw agencies have towards talking to their clients or asking them important questions. Jon first encountered System1 as a client and, over time, became a member of the team, where he has been able to transition from a generalist to a specialist in consumer behavior.

System1 was originally a research company based on behavioral science that explored why we buy what we buy, with the idea that emotion predicts most of our behavior. Today, they design simple yet clever questions about their clients’ ads, innovations, or branding to ask people how they feel about it and what associations come to mind. They have turned their process into a platform so customers can upload content, send it to their target demographic, measure the response, and compare the results against other content to predict performance. They are using neuroscience to measure attention and emotion to understand why some ads work and others don’t. Their clients use this data to allocate spending and sell their ideas to the rest of the c-suite. Jon tells us marketers are often overexposed to their products, so typically, the simplest ideas win out.

In this episode, you’ll learn: 

  • Why taking the time to understand your clients will be beneficial for everyone involved
  • The two questions that will help you win the pitch
  • What really works in advertising today and why

Key Highlights 

  • [01:30] The bitter impact of the sugar tax
  • [07:20] Jon’s path with System1 from contractor to CMO
  • [10:50] The shift from the client side to the agency side
  • [13:50] Two questions to help you win the pitch
  • [15:50] What does a CMO do?
  • [18:00] Agency Pitch (forks)
  • [19:30] Why is it called System1?
  • [20:20] What is the system?
  • [25:15] What works in advertising today?
  • [29:20] Lessons from the Uncensored CMO
  • [33:15] The unique role of the CMO within the C-suit
  • [35:00] Young Jon’s first marketing lesson
  • [36:30] Costs of not playing the game
  • [39:00] “If you’re not being fired, you’re not trying hard enough.”
  • [41:00] The power of confidence, compounding, and consistency
  • [43:40] What skill will keep us employed in the future?
  • [46:30] They may buy, but would they invest?
  • [49:10] The amazing Amazon model
  • [52:00] The threat and opportunity of AI for marketers

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Post-Production Credits:

Sam Robertson