Facebook is plagued by questions about its data policies and how ads on its platforms have influenced voters (including in the US election and Brexit). YouTube ads appear next to hate speech. Millions of dollars get lost in agencies’ shady media deals. Many social media metrics remind me of La La Land (P&G cut millions of social advertising dollars without negative sales effect). TV ads appear when the wrong audience is watching.
The list of issues won’t fit this column. It’s perhaps no coincidence that many CEOs believe marketing communication is a mess.
Many marketers are asking themselves: who’s on the hook for all these marcom issues? The answer is you.
Marketing communication is complicated – granted. There are tonnes of media channels now. Consumers are changing habits all the time. Technology moves fast: pixels, AI, programmatic; you name them.
When it’s about complexity, many marketers choose the simple way out: delegating everything to agencies. Selecting the right media? The agency does it. Allocating the budget? The agency should tell us how. And when things go wrong? It’s the agency’s fault.
Don’t get me wrong, agencies are marketers’ lifelines. Many do amazing work. But no matter how many experts you use, you are still in charge.
The current Facebook saga is a classic. When news broke that data analytics company Cambridge Analytica had acquired millions of Facebook users’ data, marketers – mostly behind closed doors – were angry. “That’s unacceptable,” they said. Many turned to their agencies to demand all sorts of guarantees that the scandal wouldn’t hit their brands.
If data were a drug, marketers would be the cartel bosses – not Facebook. It’s the marketers who choose the medium, agree the budget and approve the booking.
By the way, if you believe your work is complicated, you aren’t alone. Ask your doctor, your IT colleague, or your CEO – you’ll hardly find anyone who isn’t wrestling with a gazillion new tools and technologies.
Complexity is a fact of modern life. The leadership question is how to handle complexity. The answer has two parts: first, keeping full ownership, no matter how complex things become; second, constant quality control. In a world where you can’t do everything yourself, and where you delegate tasks, you must put checks and balances in place. It’s the only…