Tag Archives: CMO

Things Are Looking Up for Marketing

26 Apr

What do these seemingly disparate items have in common?

Building Momentum Clock Time Words Moving Forward

  • According to Gartner Research, North American and UK companies will spend 11.2% of corporate revenue on marketing in 2019.
  • Nearly two-thirds of CMOs are expecting to see marketing budgets rise this year.
  • The recent IPA Bellwether survey indicates that UK marketers saw an 8.7% increase in the size of their advertising budgets during the first-quarter of 2019.
  • Martech budgets will account for almost 30% of marketing expense budgets in 2019.
  • On the strength of its break-through brand building efforts Burger King is “cool againproclaims INSEAD.
  • Former Anheuser-Busch InBev CMO, Miguel Patricio is promoted to CEO of Kraft Heinz.

In short, organizational confidence in both marketing and marketers appears to be on the rise and zero-based budgeting (ZBB) has helped, not hindered marketing’s resurgence.

By way of background UK marketers, including Unilever and Diageo, have been at the forefront in adopting ZBB, AB InBev is a ZBB organization, 3G Capital, which owns Burger King and Kraft Heinz has employed ZBB. And finally, martech budgets are soaring because organizations have driven out marketing budget inefficiencies, applying savings to fund productivity enhancing research and innovation initiatives.

Over the last decade or so, marketers had to renew their focus on demonstrating that the marketing function could in fact drive business, including both top line revenue and net profit. Importantly, marketers had to do this at a time when companies had shifted their focus to cost management and categorized marketing as an expense… not an investment.

The message sent to marketing was clear, budgets and the success of the CMO would be tied to achieving quantifiable results that supported the organization’s goals. For many firms, ZBB was an integral part of this process. ZBB provided a framework for eliminating unproductive costs and identifying areas, which better supported firm strategies and that were worthy of financial support.

At a time when “faster, better, cheaper” has become a guiding principle and where big data and technological advances are driving dizzying rates of marketplace change, building a successful marketing infrastructure has become increasingly difficult. Yet, there are numerous indicators that would suggest things are moving in a positive direction. The structure, processes and accountability that is part and parcel of a ZBB process appears to have aided marketing’s resurgence.

In the words of American economist, Emily Greene Balch:

The future will be determined in part by happenings that it is impossible to foresee; it will also be influenced by trends that are now existent and observable.”





The Flip Side

1 Oct

compliance auditingRather than focusing on how the client / agency relationship is out of alignment as the basis for a financial compliance audit… consider this.  Proactive marketers, with highly satisfactory advertising agency / media buying relationships use “best practice” compliance auditing as a mechanism to maintain a good relationship and to support staying with their current marketing partner. 

One AARM client example.  The client’s marketing department recently (together with procurement’s support) initiated an agency media performance and billing compliance audit.  The stated audit objective was to confirm Marketing’s past experience and opinion that their agency has done an exceptional job over the last 6 years.  The audit was an agreed-to preemptive strike.  

The client’s procurement group is required, via corporate policy, to initiate a competitive RFP process every 5 years on each material vendor’s services.  Stakeholders engaged the audit process with full expectations that their agency would be found to be in compliance in all the requisite and important financial / stewardship areas.  Results were then to be used to support an ongoing relationship with the Incumbent, and as a means to avoid the potentially disruptive and costly RFP cycle. 

There was a catch.  The audit could not be a “wand-over” quick-check with sampling or haphazard testing procedures.  And could not be conducted by the company’s internal audit group, or by an external generalist firm.  Management required a specialist firm be engaged, to enable an unbiased assessment as to the health and clarity of the agency’s financial treatment.  A software enabled deep-dive data auditing capability was to be employed, industry best practices were to be compared and all agency billing areas were to be covered; including retainer-fee basis, commission application, labor charging practices, and pass-through costs. 

From a service provider’s perspective, it is refreshing to see the client / agency relationship being considered, in more than a neutral fashion but as a basis to inspect and a rationale to stay the course.  Agency change is disruptive and not guaranteed to meet expectations.  The time (market opportunity and real) it takes to bring any new agency partner up to speed and integrate them into the corporate fold is material.  We always suggest, where possible, an advertiser exhaust all reasonable effort to remedy a relationship with the existing service provider in the marketing area, rather than make a knee-jerk or non-required change. 

Our client in this case is doing it right.  They have set expectations, they are testing against those expectations as a good control practice, they plan to adjust process or control issues that come out of the review, and they will go forward with an even stronger proven relationship.  The agency is on-board, clearly has a vested interest in cooperating with the inspection, and will also benefit from any new level of financial transparency and understanding derived from the work. 

Audit should not be primarily about suspicion, gotcha, cost recovery, or selective issues.  Audit is about consistency, learning, strong financial awareness, compliance and continuous improvement. 

An additional benefit from a consistent / proactive audit program is the ability to challenge any new CMO’s suggested agency changes.  If industry statistics serve, it is likely that any given large advertiser will have a new CMO within the next 12 to 18 months, and they may want to change agency partners – what can you do? 

Go audit, stay happy!

What is the Line Between Being a Maverick or a Rogue CMO?

13 Aug

rogue cmoContrary to the old adage, when it comes to business, rules are not meant to be broken.  Companies put processes, guidelines and reporting mechanisms in place to insure that their employees adhere to the expectations established by the organization and to provide their company with transparency into the decisions that are being made by its personnel.  Of note, these rules apply to each and every employee from the C-suite to the front line.

Thus, it is always intriguing, in the context of marketing executives, when the labels “Rock Star CMO” or “Maverick” or “Risk Taker” are attached to senior marketing executives.  More concerning is when those personalities buy-in to such labels and begin to believe that their actions are somehow exempt from the guidelines established by their organizations.  This does not reflect well on those individuals, their companies or the marketing profession.  Further, as evidenced by the recent fall from grace of GM’s Global CMO, the story typically doesn’t end well for those involved.

Some might argue that there is a fine line between those personality traits and business ethos that separate a “Maverick” marketer from a rogue CMO.  I would challenge that notion entirely.  Professional marketers understand the benefits of charting a bold course, or taking prudent risks in the context of their brand’s position and their company’s culture.  They recognize the need to achieve the buy-in of their senior management peers and to build consensus among the rank and file for the strategies to be implemented.  Importantly, they set about these tasks in a transparent and ethical manner.

There is no excuse for individuals that knowingly seek to short-circuit an organization’s rules and regulations.  There can’t be.  For if we excuse the actions of a CMO or a CEO or a CFO how can we hold others in the organization accountable?  How can we reassure our Boards and our shareholders that our corporate governance initiatives and controls are beyond reproach?

It is not alright to maneuver around corporate signing authority limits.  It is not appropriate to hide costs by spreading them around multiple budget line items.  It is never acceptable to hide the truth about one’s actions when confronted by corporate counsel or internal audit.  For those individuals who think differently and conduct themselves in an inappropriate manner, the price to be paid is a heavy one, both economically and in terms of the perceptions about that person’s character.  In the words of Charles Dudley Warner the noted 19th century essayist:

“We are half ruined by conformity; but we should be wholly ruined without it.”

Stalwart marketing professionals play by the rules, invite scrutiny and pro-actively embrace their company’s accountability initiatives while conceiving of and executing demand generation strategies.  That is the cost of entry for senior marketing executives.   For Finance, Audit and Procurement professionals the recent events at GM reinforce the need to establish controls to insure transparency into the investment decisions being made by the marketing team and their agency partners.  Not for a lack of trust or congeniality, but because it is a necessary check and balance to insure compliance to the organization’s accountability initiatives.

Interested in learning more about marketing accountability and how to implement the appropriate controls and transparency?  Contact Don Parsons, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management at [email protected] for a complimentary consultation on this topic.

Do Agency Brands Still Matter?

27 Aug

agency brandsTimes have changed. In 1984 the average client agency relationship lasted 7.2 years. Ironically, while that may seem like a short duration, by 1997 it had declined to 5.3 years. Where do you believe it is today? Gone are the days when the advertising agency relationship was so esteemed that advertiser CEO’s were often on point for managing what was viewed as an invaluable resource. Advertising agencies once measured the span of their client involvement in decades and prided themselves on the longevity of those relationships. Unfortunately, transience has supplanted stability as the law of the land.

CEOs are seldom involved with the organization’s agency network, the Marketing function has lost some of its luster within the executive suite and according to a 2010 Spencer Stuart study, CMO’s turnover every 28 months on average. On the agency side, as holding companies greatly expanded their collection of traditional agency brands and specialty shops many with overlapping and often indistinct resource offerings the cache of the individual agency nameplates began to diminish. Add to this the trend that has emerged in numerous high profile agency reviews of the holding company offering to assemble a team of subject matter experts from across its network to serve up a “Best in Class” solution to the prospective client. While this approach certainly has appeal, on paper, aggregating professionals from companies with different cultures, philosophies, perspectives and processes has seldom proved to be the elixir advertisers and agencies alike have sought. Remember Enfatico?

Agency brands should matter, perhaps more so in today’s environment than at any time in the past. Whether they do or don’t is not what is at issue. The asset value of a strong agency brand to its diverse stakeholders can be significant. It starts with instilling a sense of belonging with the agency’s associates, which in turn leads to a feeling of pride and a passion for the work which they do, which drives employee satisfaction and reduces turnover.  Enhancing agency employee tenure is an important component in acculturating associates into the agency’s philosophy and belief systems, driving familiarity with advertising planning and development processes and creating a level of comfort and confidence among the client facing representatives with the agency’s solutions offering.  Stability and consistency in this area can greatly enhance the agency’s ability to achieve in-market success for client brands, which can transcend the environment of change and emphasis on short-term results that often permeates client-side organizations. Importantly, strong brands attract buyers.

Brands attract buyers based upon a known set of attributes which help to shape buyer expectations of what they’re getting, minimizing unexpected surprises and reducing buyer remorse. Clients that are satisfied with the agencies that their organization has bought into will invest the requisite time, energy and resources into those relationships, thus heightening the odds of success.

In the end, success, however each party in the client-agency relationship defines it is the key to rejuvenating individual agency brands and helping to stabilize a somewhat unsettled marketplace. As David Ogilvy once said; “The pursuit of excellence is less profitable than the pursuit of bigness, but it can be more satisfying.” I would contend that once excellence is achieved, profits will follow. One needs to look no further than average agency direct margins today vis-à-vis ten, fifteen or thirty years ago to prove that point.

Time for Marketers to “Take Charge” of Their Agency Networks

28 Mar

time for marketers to take controlGreat article.  In particular, the recommendations for laying the foundation for your “agency house” were very thought provoking.

The examples cited of Honda and HSBC Bank reinforce the need for client side CMO’s to own the strategy and execution oversight for developing, implementing and assessing the performance of integrated marketing campaigns.  Further, the trend cited by Forrester of agencies trying to “re-bundle” their services is fraught with risks to the advertiser.

In a fast moving market, with emerging technologies and the explosion in social media, the case could be made for companies to consider specialized “Best in Class” providers, rather than generalist shops. Of course this type of model will likely require an investment in internal resources to help shore up Marketing resources and capabilities.

In light of the risks associated with waiting on solutions to emanate from within the “agency house,” perhaps this is an investment worth making … Read More

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