CMO Study Suggests Major Storytelling Gaps Exist

A newly released study of CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) highlights some disturbing trends. Okay, so the majority of advertising budgets are slashed and the shift in dollars is headed to digital. No surprises there.

Here’s the real news – more than 40% of CMO’s are dissatisfied with their marketing talent, and their increasingly unhappy with the job from their agencies of record. We all know that CMOs themselves aren’t performing up to par, with one of the highest rates of turnover in the C-suite. So in the midst of this crisis of leadership, who exactly is going to lead the charge?

Dan Wieden (of Wieden and Kenndy), recently shared his outlook for 2009: “We are full-steam ahead on digital and we’re thinking of some ancillary surprises. If you can’t redefine what an advertising agency is in the next couple of years, I think you’ve got some big problems. It’s turned upside down, but for us, it’s the most exciting of times.”

The implications? Well, advertising has always been a storytelling business. True, but the scope and approach to storytelling needs to evolve in much greater depth and breadth. Innovation is currently being driven by interactive, digital, transmedia storytelling, but it simply can’t stop there. The real opportunity is to embrace Brand Storytelling in the most strategic and broadest sense – getting back to stories that link the brand promise to brand experience, and then aligning an entire company to deliver on that story.

I’m excited to be teaching the important topic of Brand Storytelling in a couple weeks at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, Canada. This newly launched Masters in Brand Communications program, sponsored by the Institute for Communication Agencies (the largest advertising asssociation of Canada), is designed for senior advertising leaders who realize the need to reinvent the agency model. Agencies are increasingly finding themselves standing on the sidelines as the “creative ad folks” but no longer sitting at the strategic table, framing the conversation. Brand Storytelling offers a philosophical framework for redefining the value proposition and long-term impact of both agencies and their clients.

I’m excited to share more with you on this topic in the weeks ahead. Below is just some of the troubling data coming from the CMO’s office.

CMOs surveyed say that more than one third of work in their department is outsourced to contracted agencies, but more often than not, the agencies of record performed only adequately, or even below standards.

Asked to evaluate the extent to which their agency of record exceeds their organization’s expectations in a variety of categories, the marketing executives gave the lowest marks to price (9%) and return on investment (12%). They gave higher scores for communication (27%), knowledge of their business (24%) and client service (23%).