By way of background, I have spent my entire career as a marketing professional. Of note, I have both advertising agency and client-side experience in addition to having worked in the field of marketing accountability, auditing marketing spend and marketing agency performance. Hence, I have always been perplexed by the notion that marketing executives were thought by some to be unwilling participants in working with their peers in procurement or finance to help them better understand and assess the stewardship of an organization’s marketing investment.
I don’t believe that anything could be further from reality. The truth is that the vast majority of marketing professionals have an inordinate sense of obligation to go along with a fiduciary duty to invest their organization’s marketing budget in a manner that will yield the greatest possible return… whether that is brand positioning, revenue generation or market share increases. To that end, marketers and their agencies work diligently and tirelessly to make every dollar invested work as hard as possible.
Of note, many industry pundits feel as though advertising agencies have fallen from their pedestal and position of respected “partner” to that of a “vendor” who does little more than sell their wares for the best possible price to the highest bidder. In spite of the fact that the average client-agency relationship tenure is a few years rather than a decade or more as in the recent past, categorizing an agency as a vendor unfairly diminishes the role and contributions made by both the agency community and the client-side marketers that direct their efforts.
Thus, it was no surprise to see the results from CMG Partner’s recent survey that found CMOs had expanded their roles and perspectives within their organizations, becoming something akin to a “CEO of Marketing.” The trying times related to the global recession and the downward pressure on marketing spend at a time when organizations sorely need to drive demand generation, while challenging, have forged a stronger breed of senior marketing executives. The report also recognizes that while the marketing profession has made considerable gains in terms of greater corporate influence, it is on “the threshold, rather than in full flower.” The report concluded that the CMO must “not only earn his or her place at the table” but also “his or her voice.”
So how can marketing executives take advantage of the upward corporate trajectory to achieve broader authority? One answer would be to fully embrace the use of independent third-party compliance and performance audits to improve corporate transparency into all facets of the marketing supply chain and openly share how an organization’s investment is being stewarded by the marketing team and their agency network. Transparency and recommended improvement opportunities can help to further the understanding that other corporate stakeholders have with regard to marketing plans, processes and outcomes. Further, independent reviews of the efficiency and efficacy of the marketing spend can benefit marketers by building peer level trust in their resource decision-making framework and the competency of their agency partners.
An independent assessment of a marketing agency’s contract compliance and performance does not emanate from a lack of trust on the part of a client organization. Advertisers that have embraced progressive corporate governance initiatives have an obligation to ensure that the large sums of money being invested in this important area are being managed capably and in concert with the terms and provisions of the client-agency agreement. Thus, the agency community, like any good corporate partner, should both welcome and support a client’s efforts to hold marketing accountable to the same standards that other functions within the organization are held to. Agencies can benefit from the process as well. Both as it relates to the independent validation of the investment that they make in the relationship as well as to use the compliance audit process to better align their resource investment and remuneration with the client’s business objectives.
In the words of Michael Josephson, one of the United States’ most sought after ethicists:
“What you allow, you encourage.”
Interested in learning more about the potential benefits of a marketing agency compliance audit? Contact Don Parsons, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management for a complimentary consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.