How Do We Overcome Corporate America's Skepticism about Advertising and Marketing?

This is a tough subject, because it is multi-faceted.

To begin with, as a direct marketing consultant I face client skepticism about marketing almost every day.

Many companies have spent a lot of advertising dollars that did not yield the revenue they needed or expected. So they draw conclusions about what caused the failure.

Some will never touch Pay Per Click with Google again because it didn't work. Or direct mail doesn't work. Or we tried outbound telemarketing three years ago and we found that it just cannot deliver the ROI we need.

More often than not, the marketers they hired did not know how to develop the value proposition, lacked objectivity or knowledge to create multi media strategies, or they simply planned and implemented the test incorrectly.

The bottom line -- marketers come with varied backgrounds and poor training. So that skepticism is valid.

In turn, I do not readily believe what clients tell me about the effectiveness of their marketing initiatives. Nine times out of ten, they either did not track the response correctly (or at all) or structure the effort as a test from which an analyst could draw reliable conclusions.

But to be truthful, marketing as practiced by most practitioners lacks discipline. So our reputation is well earned.

The process for achieving success in direct marketing is well documented. But few marketers and clients understand the considerable contributions the direct marketing strategy as a whole will bring to their business.

And unfortunately, the shrinking pool of expertise in this area makes my job more difficult because of the resulting skepticism brought about by inexperienced marketers and the growing number of new media platitudes that are propagating unchecked in the trade press and blogesphere.

A March, 2011, Advertising Age addressed one of the primary reasons why expertise and passion for marketing may be in decline.

The article, "Left to Fend for Themselves, Employees Feel No Loyalty to Agencies," the author reports on a speech given by global CEO Andrew Bennett of Havas' Arnold Worldwide.

Why is this an important issue?

For one, the advertising industry remains a primary breeding ground for CMOs and other marketers. And secondly, the article begs for a reason why this is so.

Note this from the article:

As for training, employees said they generally had to essentially train themselves, or figure out many aspects of their jobs on their own. According to the survey, there was a large disconnect between what employees and managers are saying in terms of training: 90% of employees said they learned by figuring out problems on their own. Conversely, 25% of execs said employees figured out their own issues. "The average Starbucks barista gets more training than the average communications employee."

Lack of training is the symptom and not the reason for the dearth of marketing talent. This lack of talent development comes from a focus on short term profits that favors shareholders rather than employees and clients. Furthermore, this trend exists throughout the whole of American industry and not just with agencies.

Most interesting, however, were comments from readers reacting to the article.

Training your people is not an elective, Business is getting harder, clients are becoming more senior, and agency people are more unprepared than ever before to address increasngly complex marketing challenges. ROBERT SOLOMON NEW YORK, NY

Agency staff are getting younger, less seasoned, and are virtually untrained. Some manage to find their way, others don't." Jamie Harding Birmingham, AL

The publicly held holding company model essentially destroyed the large agencies they hold. In order to constantly increase earnings per share, and satisfy large clients desire to hold down costs, the holding companies must reduce cost of goods sold (talent) to increase margins. The holding companies are trying to "save their way into growth" and this has never worked in the past. CHARLES LARSON INDIANAPOLIS, IN

So how do we overcome Corporate America's Skepticism about advertising and marketing?

Like most big problems, it begins and ends with stronger leaders and better trained employees. Those who benefited from mentors, company training and strategic vision need to hand their knowledge down to the next generation. Those endowed with a passion for marketing excellence need to continue to grow and share that growth with others at every opportunity.

Fortunately, many of you are teaching in universities, training corporate staffs and mentoring future leaders. We need you more than ever.

Posted on November 2, 2011 and filed under General, Recruiting Talent.