Annual CEO survey reveals marketers carry no swag…

The Australian is a national newspaper published by News Ltd. Last weekend, the paper’s business columnist John Durie, published his annual CEO Survey. I cannot link you to the survey as you have to be a paying subscriber – one of those little digi-difficulties:) I read the printed newspaper over a cuppa.

He interviewed 76 CEO’s of public companies in Australia. He wears one of those blue power ties and his questions included one about disruptive digital technologies.

CEO Survey

At a quick glance, apart from a couple of television stations, there are no CEOs from advertising agencies or marketing services companies.  Not one darling, digi-disrupter or BIG DATA dynamo was asked for their opinion about business.

Marketers and marketing services seem to be invisible in the world of big business. At least 90% of those interviewed have not worked in marketing. Yet we who do, believe that marketing and everything digital are the centre of the business universe.

In our world everything revolves around marketing. We believe the future belongs to the next generation of digital dudes now slashing their way through established global markets – Airbnb, Uber, Bit coin et al – creating the new sharing economy.

One of the reasons for this of course, is that we only orbit in our own small galaxies. We rarely explore the rest of the business world to learn what makes the markets go around. And despite the fact we claim responsibility for managing and building the most valuable assets companies own – their brands – marketers hardly ever become CEOs of large public companies.

You may be a successful CMO – but you still report to the CEO.

This was also brought home to me last week when I interviewed a very intelligent software programmer for my latest marketing book. Ironically he said marketers have a brand image problem. He said they have difficulty defining what they do and most people don’t understand what they do – apart from attend lots of meetings.

Here’s how he explained himself, question by question:

Q – Do they write the copy (or content as they call it these days) for the ads?
A – No

Q – Do they draw the pictures or create the graphics for the ads or websites?
A – No

Q – Do they direct or produce the videos or television commercials?
A – No

Q – Do they write code?
A – No

Q – Do they come up with the ideas?
A – No

Q – Do they invent products?
A – No

Q – Do they plan or book the media?
A – No

Q – Do the sell anything or run a sales team?
A – No

Q – Do they deal with customers?
A – No

Then what do they do apart from pay suppliers to spend money on their behalf” he asked? He suggested marketers are highly paid clerks who use the word “strategy” a lot.

I claimed this was a tad harsh, having spent my entire career working in marketing. And I tried to protect my dignity, but it wasn’t easy – how would you answer dear reader?

An airline sales manager who I know, calls his marketing manager the Minister for Coloured Pencils. He once told me that blockbuster movies are made around the Wolves of Wall Street, not the Madmen of Madison Avenue. “The Madmen are throwbacks to another time anyway. You couldn’t imagine them existing now, but there are still packs of wolves making money and keeping the world going round” he claimed with a grin.

I’m off to a marketing meeting shortly. You know those inspiring innovation-filled passion-pits of enthusiasm and intellectual rigour. Aren’t they the reason we get up in the morning?

On second thoughts, I think I might sleep in…


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