Marketing Accountability. Who Owns It?

3 Nov

marketing accountabilitySeems like a straight forward question.  And the answer is vital to the success of an organization’s marketing accountability initiative. 

From a functional perspective, should it be Marketing, Finance, Procurement or Internal Audit?  Should the CMO, CFO, CPO and or their lieutenants take the lead?  And of course the real zinger; “Whose budget will cover the cost of the initiative?”

Simple questions?  Yes, but with answers that have organizational implications that frequently pose significant impediments to fielding a marketing accountability program.  The reasons cited range from “We’re short-staffed” to “We want to do it, but budgetary constraints won’t allow for it this FY.”  Thus, for most advertisers, their marketing accountability initiatives are DOA.  It’s a shame when you consider the hundreds of $millions in marketing spend committed annually with little in the way of contract compliance auditing, financial reconciliation, performance monitoring or independent oversight. 

The obvious question for stakeholders is: “Would you play it so loose if it were your own money?”  Probably not.  Truth be told, accountability is everyone’s responsibility and is a pillar of good corporate governance.  The tone is typically set by the CEO and over time, becomes part and parcel of an organization’s culture. 

From a marketing perspective perhaps the best model to consider is a multi-functional team of internal stakeholders from Procurement, Marketing and Finance with the source of funding being the marketing budget and the CMO serving as the leader of the initiative.  Why Marketing?  Because Marketing will be the primary beneficiary of the resulting process improvements, efficiency gains and financial true-ups that are typically realized as part of an accountability effort.  Further, while business results, brand building, strategy development, analysis and leadership are skills required of the CMO position, accountability and responsible stewardship of the organization’s marketing investment are vitally important elements as well.

In the end, the organization realizes a number of benefits that will improve the efficacy of its marketing spend, boost ROMI and improve the performance of their marketing services agency network:

  • Enhanced agency stewardship systems (i.e. contracts, compensation and evaluation systems)
  • Improved controls, transparency and reporting
  • Efficiency gains
  • Improved financial stewardship practices

So what are the critical components of a marketing accountability program?  At its root, it begins with the clear articulation of the organization’s business objectives, marketing goals and expectations of each stakeholder group involved in the marketing process.  One of the most critical stakeholder groups is the organization’s marketing services agency network.  A well-conceived marketing accountability program will help both advertiser and agency align resources with the organization’s goals.  In turn, these decisions will ultimately drive decisions regarding roles and responsibilities, deliverables, agency staffing, remuneration and the criteria that will be utilized to assess performance. 

Successful accountability management programs are not one-and-done propositions.  They involve implementing and executing a system which has an ongoing monitoring component.  Often times, this may include utilizing independent auditors to help instill the requisite feedback and control processes into the culture of the advertiser and each member of their marketing services agency network. 

Marketing accountability and the attendant activities associated with these initiatives (i.e. performance monitoring, compliance testing, independent auditing) form the basis for organizations to ensure that the millions of dollars spent on marketing are tracked appropriately.  More importantly, these actions will afford an advertiser the opportunity to drive each of the stakeholders that comprise their marketing supply chain to extraordinary performance.

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