Short-ter­mism is hurt­ing us all

Campaign UK - - NEWS - claire.beale@hay­mar­ @claire­beale CLAIRE BEALE Global edi­tor-in-chief

There’s a pro­mis­cu­ous se­nior mar­keter who’s well-known for never stay­ing in one job very long. I’d al­ways as­sumed – be­ing cyn­i­cal – that their flight­i­ness was be­cause they just weren’t that good, that what had sounded im­pres­sive in the job in­ter­view turned out to be mean­ing­less bull­shit when put into prac­tice at the mar­ket­ing coal­face. So I asked them why they swapped jobs so of­ten. “I get bored. I make the changes I think need mak­ing. Then I lose in­ter­est, so I quit.” So, yes, I con­cluded: they’re not a very good mar­keter.

But they’re hardly alone in rid­ing the mar­ket­ing merry-gor­ound. A new re­port on mar­ket­ing short-ter­mism compiled by En­ders Anal­y­sis for magazine mar­ket­ing body Mag­netic found that the av­er­age ten­ure for chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cers is just over four years. I reckon this is an over­es­ti­ma­tion. What­ever the ex­act fig­ure, we know mar­keters – even the good ones – don’t tend to hang around very long. And this is just one ex­am­ple of the ru­inous short-ter­mism that En­ders says is in­fect­ing our in­dus­try.

Cor­po­rate in­vestors now de­mand quar­terly re­sults, pro­cure­ment is more pow­er­ful than ever, zero-based bud­get­ing has be­come fash­ion­able, and there’s been a re­sult­ing demise in long-term client/agency re­la­tion­ships. As En­ders chief Dou­glas Mccabe points out, we now live in a world of “mar­ket­ing that is be­ing driven by non-mar­ket­ing ex­perts”. Mean­while, the rise of digital tar­get­ing and per­for­mance met­rics has meant we’ve be­come an in­dus­try ad­dicted to the crack of speedy – even real-time – re­sults.

And that’s fu­elling a get-rich-quick-and-bug­ger-the­con­se­quences ap­proach to mar­ket­ing in­vest­ment (though in­vest­ment is hardly the ap­pro­pri­ate word here).

This sys­tem­atic fail­ure to bal­ance short-term re­wards with long-term, sus­tain­able growth has un­for­giv­able con­se­quences. As Les Binet and Peter Field have al­ready ar­gued in their 2015 pa­per The Long and the Short of It, short­term re­sults de­cay quickly and, as Time Inc UK chief Mar­cus Rich high­lights on page 8, “could dam­age a brand for­ever”.

But it’s hard to think of any part of the mar­coms equa­tion that hasn’t been com­plicit in cre­at­ing, and feed­ing off, the short-ter­mism virus. From mar­keters’ de­sire to de­liver quick sales growth in re­sults-hun­gry board­rooms; to media agen­cies’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in the price-led com­modi­ti­sa­tion of their ser­vices; to cre­ative agen­cies’ ob­ses­sion with new tools and chan­nels re­gard­less of their ef­fi­cacy; to media own­ers’ will­ing­ness to bun­dle their con­tent and sell on vol­ume rather than qual­ity en­gage­ment and con­text – we’re all to blame. The re­spon­si­bil­ity for re­cal­i­bra­tion rests with all of us – and here, at least, short-term re­sults are crit­i­cal.

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