Editorial: How science can move marketing up food chain

Marketing, we are continually told, has little or no presence in the boardrooms of most major companies.

Advertising agencies are even less frequent visitors: many an agency chief is happy to cite examples of cosy chats with a client chief executive, but the reality is that adland fails to consistently engage at the highest level of business.

So far, so old hat. But this week, the new IPA president, Rory Sutherland, is setting out his stall with what he believes could be a solution to this age-old problem: the not-so-new science of behavioural economics (page 22).

For the uninitiated, behavioural economics applies scientific study of human behaviour to understand economic (and particularly purchasing) decisions by consumers.

The IPA hopes that using it as a framework will help agencies move marketing away from its current position at the bottom of the food chain and give it more of a scientific and economic leg to stand on. It also thinks that behavioural economics can help (re)frame the perception of marketing so it is once again seen as a serious discipline that makes a genuine economic contribution to business.

As an aim for Sutherland's presidency, this is idealistic, optimistic and, above all, worthy. It's also deserving of support from all quarters of the industry, particularly given his view that a more business-focused approach will help to expand the overall marketing pot.

Of course, behavioural economics, however scientific a discipline, can't achieve this Holy Grail all by itself. What it can do is give agencies and marketers a new weapon, and a new language, to use when talking to clients. And in this market, any weapon should be embraced with open arms.