Marketers can’t commit

It used to be that if you joined a company, it was for the long haul. We're talking gold watch anniversaries. That's no longer the case, and while in the agency world it's expected that creatives will change jobs as often as they change their sneakers, I'm kinda surprised by the number of marketers who have come in and out of jobs during my five-and-a-half years at strategy.

It used to be that if you joined a company, it was for the long haul. We’re talking gold watch anniversaries. That’s no longer the case, and while in the agency world it’s expected that creatives will change jobs as often as they change their sneakers, I’m kinda surprised by the number of marketers who have come in and out of jobs during my five-and-a-half years at strategy.

It’s the reason so many of them are terrified to break away from the pack in advertising. At least that’s what Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Worldwide Kevin Roberts told me when we met up to discuss his new book Sisomo: The future on screen, late last month. Since the average CMO is in the role for less than three years – marketing managers are likely to leave in half that time – and because of ROI demands, risk taking has become all but extinct, says Roberts, who is also the author of the widely cited book Lovemarks.

And while it may sound like a lot of agency hot air, consider that Roberts spent many years on the client side of the biz, at big firms like P&G, Gillette and Pepsi Canada, where he was at one time president and CEO. Perhaps turnover in marketing departments can, at least in part, be blamed for the dismantling of agency-marketer relationships as well. Like marriage, those unions are not what they once were. In fact, they’re starting to put the likes of Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards to shame.

Virgin Canada, for instance, just separated from its agency Lowe Roche after less than two years. That followed Bell, who went back to Cossette last fall after a brief one-year fling with Grip.

The good news is that our second annual report on marketing, which starts on page 31, suggests marketers are actually fairly giddy about the efforts coming out of their AORs. Of the 120 marketers polled, 40.5% defined their relationship as ‘very good,’ and 42.2% said their AOR’s strategic and creative offerings were ‘above average.’ However, when asked what they would like to see more of from their shop, 56.2% replied ‘strategic insight.’ Which suggests there’s still some work to do before agencies get back to the ‘better-half’ position they once enjoyed with marketers. Roberts knows it; he developed Sisomo, an amalgamation of the words ‘sight, sound, and motion,’ out of ‘naked fear’ that agencies would soon be downgraded to creative-services shops.

What does it take to achieve Sisomo? According to Roberts, ‘bringing emotional impact to the screen is the best way to make something irresistible.’ That seems to be something our Marketer of the Year winners grasp. All members of the top three – from WestJet’s Sean Durfy to Virgin’s Nathan Rosenberg and Reitmans’ Stephanie Bleau – have found ways to emotionally connect with their very different and respective targets. And the campaigns aren’t just entertaining; they’re strategic too. Your agency may be able to get you there – if you let them try.

Lisa D’Innocenzo

Editor