Opinion: Perspective - Why we need to nurture new business leaders

If you're utterly fed up with prognoses of industry gloom, look away now because there are some new stats in from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and they ain't pretty.

Marketers now earn less than their colleagues in IT, human resources and sales. Marketing directors can expect to earn, on average, £75,000 a year, senior marketing managers earn an average £42,000 a year, junior managers £27,000.

All of which, whichever way you cut it, reflects an erosion in the status of marketing departments within client companies. And that's most definitely not good news for ad agencies.

The CIM's findings seem at odds with the growing recognition of brands' contribution to companies' intangible assets and, therefore, to the corporate balance sheet. Marketing grows brands, brands grow profits and grow balance sheets.

At a time when companies are increasingly obsessed with corporate social responsibility, the retail shift from the high street to the internet, the need to demonstrate organic growth, surely marketing should be considered more important than ever. I suspect, in reality, that most big companies recognise this.

It's not marketing that has lost its status, it's just marketing departments. What seems to have happened is that many companies have stripped key responsibilities from their marketing department and shifted them into the boardroom.

Meanwhile, agencies have been left behind. Joined at the hip to a denuded marketing function, they've missed the opportunity to get (back) into the boardroom where all the big decisions, many of which touch on agencies' areas of expertise, are being taken.

By-the-by, thank goodness - in this context - for Sir Martin Sorrell, who is perhaps the only "adman" of any real note to be considered a businessman worthy of sitting alongside other global business leaders. His service to the advertising industry, in that respect, is significant.

Anyway, way back when (before the global behemoths took control), more local ad agency chiefs were known to enjoy real business partnerships with their client company chief executives.

But those were the days when the UK ad industry was more entrepreneurial, when more agency chief executives were businessmen equal in business acumen to the people at the top of their client companies.

These days, agency chief executives haven't necessarily been exposed to the same business issues, had to face the same business challenges. How many of today's ad agency managers speak the language of business enough to justify a place at their clients' right hand? How many have the experience of managing their own businesses without one hand tied to a financial director in New York? How many simply have fundamental business decisions imposed upon them by their holding company?

As the advertising industry welcomes in its newest batch of recruits, it's imperative that we recognise the need to focus a little less on client marketing departments and a little more on growing a new generation of business leaders whom client boardrooms can regard as worthy partners.

You'll have noticed by now that this week's issue of Campaign is dominated by the industry's newest recruits, the graduates just entering the business and those making their first steps up the agency corporate ladder.

They are people whose voices are not often heard through the pages of Campaign, or by their industry seniors. But they are, of course, the future of the business. And anyone who believes in advertising enough to wish it a healthy future needs to make sure it's nurtured from the bottom up.

Which is why we're offering everyone in the communications industry with less than two years' experience a cut-price Campaign subscription: £30 (see page 26). That's a whopping saving. Every little helps.