OPINION: Why marketing directors make handy fall guys

Another marketing director bit the dust the other day.

Another marketing director bit the dust the other day.

By the time this column appears there will surely be another, although

no one person or organisation should connect themselves, or itself, with

the contents of this article.

In my advertising days I was drafted onto a world-famous name account

and told the marketing director was unpleasant and impossible to deal


I met him. We reviewed the ads, and I found out what the real problem

was. The advertising was awful! We sorted it out and became good


So did the story have a happy ending? I rang him one day to say that we

had not talked for a while. What about a drink, had he been busy?

No, he said, he had not been busy; he had, however, been the victim of a

highly successful palace revolution, and yes he would love a drink.

Which leads to my theme. Why are marketing directors unpopular? Not

disliked, although my friend above was perhaps an exception, just


In the middle of April this year I went to work. I was no longer a

marketing director.

I had held the title for more than 16 years. On that first day long ago

the managing director said to me: ’We have hired you because you know

something about marketing and advertising. You will now learn about your

new business - no executive duties for six weeks.’

If I had been put in charge of anything in that first six weeks I would

have been sunk.

Do marketing directors get a breather today? A major company’s human

resources director gave an interview in one of those learned journals a

while back. In it he said: ’We like to see what a new manager has shown

us in his first 100 days’. Trying too hard, too soon to justify a salary

is dangerous.

When a marketing director gets to the boardroom for the first time he or

she rapidly realises that the finance director is adding up the money he

collects from customers; the distribution director, under constant cost

pressure, is delivering the goods; and the sales director is selling the

stuff. The only one spending money is the marketing director - and lots

of it! Would not the profits be higher if they were not there at


So you are unpopular. From time to time you show your colleagues


’How much did that cost?’ you are asked. ’About pounds 400k,’ you


When you sign that estimate for pounds 400k, however experienced you

are, a shiver runs down your spine.

I shall not miss that shiver. It’s you who is going to have to defend

the finished product and its cost to the board.

I shall miss the boardroom and debating the issues. As marketing

director it is your job to confront colleagues with what you believe to

be the truth: weaknesses, regional blots, customer holes.

You must point out the difference between the cost of doing business in

the marketplace and investment.

No wonder you’re unpopular: ’You mean we don’t have a choice over

whether we spend the money or not?’

I spoke (now that I have time to do this) to my wife. ’If you were so

unpopular, how did you last so long?’’ she said. But then when you lose

a marketing director you lose a fall guy as well.

Laura Mazur is on holiday

Tony Scouller is director of Mulcaster PR, a partner in Brand Genetics

and director at Springpoint.


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