No Respect for CMOs

June 21, 2009 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

We spend a lot of space in this blog talking about issues relating to the underdog – those underfunded, under-appreciated but very spunky companies that often jump up and bite their larger rivals. Perhaps the biggest little underdog in our industry is the CMO him or herself.

Advertising Age magazine ran an article recently titled, “Why CMO Role Is Not as Important as You Think.” It cited data from a study conducted by Ernst & young indicating that CMOs hold significant influence at just 7 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies. The chief reason for this, according to the study’s findings, is that CMOs simply don’t possess the financial acumen of their peers.

I don’t buy that. In fact, it’s rarely the case in our experience where CMOs we work with have anything less than a sharp understanding of metrics and their implications for their company’s financial performance.

Rather, it would seem that the collective frustration the C-suite experiences when trying to build airtight models for advertising returns is wiped off on the person closest to the problem. That’s the CMO. While marketing and advertising ROI can be demonstrated with some precision some of the time, it can never be absolutely quantified all of the time. Despite great gains in ROI modeling techniques and tools, predicting human response and behavior is still more art than science. My bet is that it always will be.

So if, as the study implies, CMOs will not get the respect they deserve until they can make the ROI connection foolproof, they may never get a seat at the big kid’s table.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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