OPINION: Chief marketing officer? More like change management officer!

Graham Monkman
By Graham Monkman | 4 September 2013

Nestlé marketing boss David Morgan feels that advertising process management is preventing company marketing staff from concentrating on their core trade of marketing.

If that is the case, I’d suggest they put the company advertising function into the hands of agency-trained professionals full-time. In days gone by, agency account managers were almost invariably recruited for jobs on the client side, and it worked well. They understood agency processes and had lengthy experience of working with all of the agency specialists in creative, media and account planning. And most importantly, working outside the day-to-day detail of the advertising process, they had time to think – about the content of the advertising, its future direction, reactions to it within the company, and its effectiveness in improving and maintaining the company’s business objectives and public reputation.

Many years ago I was advertising manager of a big multinational, responsible for a range of institutional and corporate product campaigns – all of which were administered by the Public Affairs Department. When a new head of marketing joined the company – transferred to head office from a marketing role in the regions – I welcomed the appointment. My expectations were that his input would provide a stronger commercial focus in the advertising, and moreover he also promised the imminent provision of a revolutionary marketing plan.

Incidentally, what I and others didn’t know was that his former colleagues had rejoiced when he was switched to the top marketing job at the group’s HQ! And in the event, neither the marketing plan or marketing guidance ever materialised.

However, one very significant outcome was the marketing supremo’s immediate attempt to hijack all of the high-budget corporate campaigns – out of PR and into marketing. He proceeded to dismiss the existing advertising direction as misguided and ‘amateurish’ and predictably, he began to agitate to change the advertising agencies involved.

Looking back, I’m wondering if this guy set a significant pattern for the future, because these days company advertising management seems to be the exclusive preserve of chief marketing officers – who now complain that the time involvement it entails is preventing them from undertaking their ‘real’ trade of marketing.

Effective control of advertising is a full-time job. And with the current proliferation of new media channels, the processes involved are increasingly more labour-intensive. I would suggest that an agency-trained ex-agency account manager transferring to the client side would have both the time and capacity to achieve the best possible utilisation of digital media – including the smartphones and tablets which David feels marketers are neither understanding or effectively utilising.

In addition to a competent administrator, a company advertising function would also benefit from the addition of a creative professional. This would enable not only the generation of more ideas, but also a more finely tuned awareness and evaluation of the agency’s creative work. Telstra did just that, and the outcome was one of the best and most innovative TVCs for years.

If they are that time-poor, I would imagine a significant part of the problem is clocking up too much time in changing agencies. Once they are on a treadmill of organising meetings, writing briefs, preparing documentation and attending presentations from a number of competing agencies, it’s not surprising that today’s marketing heroes feel there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Many of today’s CMOs seem to regard constantly changing agencies as essential to maintaining refreshing and original campaigns. My belief is that better advertising is achieved through your own sustained and in-depth creative and strategic thinking, coupled with working with your agency as a confidant and business partner over a long period of time.

It’s worth remembering that the Ogilvy campaign for Hathaway Shirts retained its potency for 21 years, and his similarly iconic creation for Dove Soap had an even more impressive track record – continuing in business for a remarkable 30 years.

When asked to pitch for a very big account, David Ogilvy reminded the potential client that the incumbent agency had handled his business with great distinction for a very long time, and suggested that instead of firing them they should be rewarded. Today’s generation of chief marketing officers (or maybe 'change management officers' would be a better title!) might do well to reflect on this.

Graham Monkman
Freelance Writer

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