Close-Up: Live Issue/Marketing Sceptics - New survey shows marketing is still undervalued/Finance directors remain unsure of marketing’s true worth, Lisa Campbell says

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.

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

training programmes.

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,’

he claims.

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.

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