Getting frank with Frank

Mo Dezyanian
Mar 9, 2018 · 3 min read

This week I went to AMA’s Fire Side chat with Frank Palmer. For those who don’t know, he is a a true legend, the quintessential Canadian Mad Man. It was a pleasure to hear his perspective.

The event was held to promote his biography: Let’s Get Frank!

Side note: Susan K Robertson’s command of the discussion, while dealing with a heavy-weight of the media industry, was nothing short of impressive!

Here are 6 takeaways that caught my attention:

  1. Frank is a top advocate of the “relationship business.” I didn’t write down his exact quote (shame on me) but to paraphrase it was “We’re in the relationship business, advertising is just a by-product.”
  2. What has changed, though, is who the ad agencies can have a relationship with. Namely, it used to be with the president of the company, the top decision-maker. More recently, it is with the marketing team only.
  3. By contrast, what hasn’t changed is the push for greater work. Both clients and agencies are hungry for excellence. Good to hear that that still holds!
  4. The market has changed. Marketing has changed. While agencies in general are adapting fast, independents move faster than others.
  5. Frank also talked about how winning business with procurement departments is a “race to the bottom.”
  6. This one stood out to me, as it is relevant to my work:

“Now more than ever, the structure of the agency is important.”

The frank conversation

As I was listening to the conversation, I couldn’t help but wonder, why? Why do agencies not have access to the CEO’s office anymore? Why is it a “race to the bottom?” Why are we re-structuring and losing profits in the process ?

Is it because the marketing and media landscape has changed? Maybe.

But that theory doesn’t align with the fact that CMOs are thriving, and being touted as the next generation of CEOs. To mention just a few telling examples:

  • Former branding chief Steve Easterbrook was named CEO McDonald’s, March 2015
  • Former chief customer officer Denise Morrison was named CEO Campbell Soup, 2011
  • Mercedes-Benz USA promoted VP of Marketing Stephen Cannon to CEO; rival Audi USA named CMO Scott Keogh as President, 2012
  • Online retailer Gilt recruited Citigroup CMO Michelle Peluso as CEO, 2013
  • Former director of marketing operations Ben van Buerden became CEO at Royal Dutch Shell, 2014

Maybe the answer is because marketing and advertising has been seen as an expense for so long? And could one of the reasons for that be one of the ways our industry has structured itself, defined itself, and billed?

Perhaps it is time for us use the tools at our disposal — namely data, creativity, digital metrics, and yes, how we structure — to turn advertising from an expense into an investment.

I believe that that is the key to being invited back into the CEO’s office. It’s also the key to effective conversations with procurement. Finally, it’s the key to stopping this “race to the bottom.”

What do you think? Maybe you’re already doing this? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Empathy Inc. — Occasional Insights

Thought leadership about business, marketing, and media

Mo Dezyanian

Written by

Marketer. Climber. Dada. President of Empathy Inc.

Empathy Inc. — Occasional Insights

Thought leadership about business, marketing, and media

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