The recent tension between Ken Livingstone and Tony Blair is
nothing compared with that which exists between the marketing and
finance departments of many companies.
Traditionally, marketers have thought of finance directors as boring
bean counters while the finance department has questioned what it sees
as the ’airy fairy’ nature of brand communications.
It seems that old attitudes die hard. A new survey by the Institute of
Practitioners in Advertising and CIA Medianetwork throws up some
depressing facts about finance directors’ attitudes towards their
marketing colleagues and on the role of marketing itself.
It shows that the misunderstanding, mutual disrespect and perceived lack
of accountability that were shown in the last survey of 1996 continue
Agencies should be worried. If they can’t prove the value of what they
do for their clients, their very existence could be questioned.
The leading trade bodies and organisations agree, announcing in a joint
statement: ’These results confirm that we have a relationship and
communication problem at the heart of business in the UK.’
The issues are manifold but the most burning is accountability. Some
progress has been made in this area, however, as accountability is now
seen as the most important attribute for senior marketing personnel
among finance directors - a sea change in attitude from the previous
survey when it was viewed as the least important.
In addition, marketing measurement is no longer all about hard ’till
ringing’ measures of sales volume and profitably. Now softer measures
such as brand awareness are being considered, suggesting an increased
understanding of marketing as a discipline.
The problem is that the link back to return on investment is either not
being made or not being communicated effectively.
The survey, which questioned 100 finance directors and 100 marketing
directors within The Times Top 1,000 companies, threw up other worrying
statistics. It showed that one-third of finance directors think their
companies have no measures of marketing in place, which, the report’s
authors say, limits marketing’s relative priority for long-term
While not actively disagreeing that brands are important, only 29 per
cent of finance directors strongly agreed with the statement that ’apart
from people, brands are the most important assets which any company can
But 75 per cent of marketers questioned admitted they found measuring
marketing effectiveness difficult. Despite this, 49 per cent of them
attempt to measure the effectiveness of advertising, 45 per cent measure
direct marketing and 27 per cent measure internet effectiveness.
Other reasons for the lack of respect awarded to marketing is the fact
that only 20 per cent of marketers report on marketing issues at board
level. More often than not, this falls to a managing director or a chief
executive, reflecting the old adage that ’it’ s only advertising and
everyone’s an expert’.
This problem is compounded by the high turnover in marketing
departments, with marketing directors typically lasting 18 months in the
job. The leading trade bodies have launched a joint manifesto, signed by
the likes of John Hooper, the director-general of the Incorporated
Society of British Advertisers, and Mike Detsiny, the director-general
of the Marketing Society, to encourage major companies to appoint a
board director who is responsible for marketing by the end of 2001.
In addition, the Marketing Council is organising a seminar in
association with the Confederation of British Industry. The Marketing
Society and ISBA will communicate the findings to members and the
Chartered Institute of Marketing aims to include the issue within its
John Stubbs, the chief executive for the Marketing Council, says: ’This
research sends out a health warning to the industry about measuring
effectiveness. It says, ’watch out, do more, make more of an effort’. I
think the industry will respond to that.’
He goes on to explain that standards vary widely between sectors, with
companies such as Diageo having very sophisticated measurement models in
place. ’There are other sectors, particularly outside FMCG, where
marketing is only just beginning to make its mark, so we can’t be
surprised if there are sceptics in the finance department, ’ he
David Fletcher, the head of CIA MediaLab, believes media agencies are
best placed to improve the problems of accountability. ’There is more we
can do beyond the current short-term approach, which is to tick the
boxes campaign by campaign.
We need a long-term commitment to tracking measures combined with
consistent methodology,’ Fletcher says.
’Media agencies shouldn’t just be about the type of media used or the
price at which it is bought. We should be able to prove to clients why
they should spend pounds 5 million on their marketing campaign as
opposed to pounds 4 or pounds 6 million.’
Fletcher claims agencies can’t do this because they aren’t sure enough
of the nuts and bolts to be able to construct a logical argument. This
is why agencies are getting into the field of econometrics.
Fletcher is optimistic about the report. ’It presents us with the
opportunity to become more like the business partners we claim to be,’
Another cause for optimism is provided by the internet - the one area on
which finance and marketing departments agree about the value of
Its use as a communications and distribution tool, as well as its
capacity for accountability, are the key drivers.
It may be that the internet will act as the glue to bring the opposing
departments closer together.