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Why marketers and their agencies need to go sideways

Published on Thursday, 14th March 2013
MD of Stuff Advertising Jonnie Galvin Wright on the marketing talent pool

Marketing Week published an article today entitled “The marketing talent pool is drying”.

At first sight you may think this is just because the number of people around is drying up.

But there is more to it than that. And there is a lesson here also for the marketers stable mate; the agency.

There appears to be a lack of board room Directors coming through with a marketers background - and its being blamed on past M&A activity in the UK. It’s claimed this M&A activity is taking more marketers out of the UK Director’s pool and most importantly gives less opportunity for marketers to progress to board room level. Cadbury and Rowntree Mackintosh are cited examples of a reduction in incubator space. That’s a process that will continue.

But the article goes on to say that, “the number of young marketers capable of growing the influence of marketing in companies could fall in the future because of fewer “marketing universities” operated by FMCG giants, according to former marketers.

The key words here are capability and influence. A marketer may have proved delivery but does he or she have the commercial skills needed to move upwards in to the board room? Because if you have not it seems you may go no further. It means understanding the commercial realities of the board room and, for marketers with ambitions to move in to executive positions, obtaining a breadth of commercial experience to progress.

Alan McWalter, a former Marks and Spencer group marketing director is quoted as saying that marketers need to align the process of marketing with supporting top line growth if the disciplines’ influence is to grow. “There is too much talk of the intricacies of delivery and not about growth”, he added.

So the message is clear. If you want to get on it’s not so much about getting ahead but its more about turning right or left, moving sideways to increase commercial knowledge that gives a wider scope for personal growth. It also means working with agencies that also understand commercial need and analysis. When was the last time your agency asked you for an update on your business model or your current CPA?

Jonnie Galvin-Wright is Marketing Sector Head Bristol Media and Managing Director at Stuff Advertising.