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Managing Marketing – the challenges facing marketers in an increasingly complex marketplace

Debbie Morrison
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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Debbie Morrison is the Director of Consultancy and Best Practice at ISBA, the voice of British Advertisers. She shares her insights on the challenges facing marketers and their procurement partners and the work ISBA is doing to help their members address these complex issues.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and we’re in London, we’re here for Good Brief Week and I’m chatting to a good friend of mine, Debbie Morrison, Director of Consultancy and Best Practice at ISBA.

Debbie:

Hello, how are you?

Darren:

I’m well. And we’ve just had a great session this morning.

Debbie:

We did. It was really good, I was very surprised.

Darren:

What amazes me is your role at ISBA has really evolved and changed over the years in response to your members’ needs, hasn’t it?

What do ISBA do?

Debbie:

Well it’s had to because the markets very different. I mean, you know, our members no longer want basic advice on how to pitch for a big creative agency, they’re grappling with major issues like marketing structure, like how to remain relevant in a digital led world, real time marketing world, and so we’ve had to evolve and so have all of our products.

So a lot of what we do is based on giving I think, 21st century advice to maybe some 20th century based structures and businesses.

Darren:

Yeah, but the amazing thing for me is that a lot of the similar sorts of organisations around the world, and I’m not going to name them, are still very much doing the housekeeping rather than responding. Obviously, that comes from some personal drive on your part, but also the organisation supporting that, doesn’t it?

Debbie:

Yeah, we have over 2000 conversations every year with our members so we’re just responding to what they’re telling us. And you know, I won’t say it’s easy, I get into work on a Monday morning and the inside of my head looks like a Jackson Pollock painting and then I have to start unpicking it and making sense of it but that’s only what our advertiser members are facing every day.

I suppose, we’re like a fulcrum so we’re out there in the world, meeting people, seeing lots of ideas, understanding which agencies have done what, which clients have done innovative things and it all filters in to ISBA and then we try and make sense of it and put it back out into the membership.

So it’s a bit like they’re learning from each other all the time. But sometimes, they only see what they see whereas we, ISBA team, are out there in the world, I think we’re sort of seeing everything and that’s why my head is so jumbled when I get into work.

Darren:

I was going to say, because you are well-connected globally. You’re travelling, you’re talking to people you know in the U.S., across Europe and even in Asia. I feel honoured to be part of your network of people that you talk with and we share ideas and identify trends and things like that.

Debbie:

Well, the world’s a small place. I know we’re a U.K. organisation but most of the people we work with, the senior people, have morphed in their roles. They may have been responsible just for U.K. but now, a lot of them are responsible for global communications or global marketing or Pan European, or whatever it is.

So we can’t just be solely focused on what’s happening in the U.K. It’s not the way the world goes now. You know, the internet makes the world one global market so we need to be in tune with it all.

Darren: 

Because the board, as you come into the ISBA office here of your members, it’s very representative. In a lot of countries, organisations are inclined to just represent the biggest advertisers. You seem to have, at ISBA, a real spread of traditional global brands, local English or British brands and everything in between.

Debbie:

Yeah, we’ve got charities. We feel on the issues side what we’re doing, when we’re talking to governments and in the E.U., that we have to be representative of all types of advertiser and sometimes some of the bigger companies do the more innovative things because they’ve got bigger funds to restructure, to do things, and so we watch what they’re doing and we use that information to really get the smaller brands interested in changing what they do in the world.

But I think we have to be representative and also it’s really great because we’ve started to get some of the new digital based companies joining. Google, we’re talking with Facebook, we’ve got some online businesses joining because they feel like they, oddly want the respectability of the traditional brand area, but our traditional brands can learn from them and they can learn from the traditional brands.

Sharing Ideas is Important

Darren:

Well there is something about belonging, this sense of belonging. As marketers, because globally and locally, we’re confronted with such huge challenges. Technology is driving a lot of it and these companies you’re talking about are the people that are bringing about those changes.

But it’s something that I found in my role at Australian Marketing Institute that people really are wanting to share ideas a lot more. They’re trying to learn from each other because I think there’s a realisation that you can’t do it all yourself.

Debbie:

We have a great spirit among our membership and they’re always wanting to share ideas. We do this thing called a round robin so if we get approached by one of our members and it’s a question that we don’t know the answer to; we know the answer to that is outside in our memberships somewhere.

So we will push that question out into the whole membership sphere on an anonymous basis, and what we’ll do is gather the experience of those other marketers out there who may have encountered that before. The information comes back in, we anonymise it and everybody who has taken part will share in the answers.

So there again, even though they’ve inputted, they may learn something different from somebody else who’s answered that question. We’ve just pushed that onto our website so that it can be a searchable tool for our members. So they realise the benefit in sharing. And of course, everybody’s isolated in their own organisation.

They know what they know, they know what some of their colleagues know, but they don’t actually know the total picture on what’s happening out there. So this gives them access to a much broader base of knowledge.

Darren:

And that goes straight to part of your title; ‘Best Practice’, because best practice exists in what people are doing out there. But I guess it’s also your network of experts or specialists that gives you next practice which is what are the trends that are coming? One of the challenges I think marketers find is that you’re busy doing what you’re doing, where do you get the inspiration or the ideas for where you could be going?

Changing Ways of Operation

Debbie:

We do a lot of next practice and particularly this year we’ve done a lot on visioning projects. So we did a big project on media 2020 and how advertisers are preparing for a very different eco-system. And that’s thrown up again, a lot of issues around structure and what’s happening in the world.

So we’re doing these sort of projects all the time. We did a big project on how members felt about their creative agencies because we were getting a lot of feedback from them moaning about agencies not being agile enough, they’re not cost-effective enough to work with us in this market.

So we did a big project, we laid those problems and things that they’d expressed to us but wouldn’t express to their agencies, on the agency community and they weren’t happy about it.

But what we’re seeing now is agencies changing their basis of operation and it’s more relevant to what our members were saying. We can’t have a six month development process for a campaign anymore, it does not exist. Not in their minds.

So therefore, you agency, have got to change the way that you operate and so have we client, it’s not, you know, one or the other. It’s both of them have to change the way that they’re structured.

Darren:

It’s funny though isn’t it, how often marketers will feel, clients will feel that they can’t give that direct feedback. They either don’t feel confident enough or they feel that they’re going to upset the agency. So the role of facilitating that, making it anonymous, but also building some you know, overall industry trends, one; makes it more compelling, and as you said, the agencies may not like it, but when you’re confronted with quite compelling evidence that this is a trend, what do you do?

Debbie:

Well I think it’s quite sad though that the clients blame the agencies because actually, it’s both parties that need to do things differently but you know, they do like to moan, clients like a good moan every now and then.

So we’re here to enable them to moan if they want to, but to provide them with solutions and some ideas on how to do things differently. An example is, for years we’ve written model contracts and they’ve all been siloed so there’s a creative contract, a media contract, a PR contract etc.

But over the last year, we’ve just launched new contracts for the way that clients work with their agencies now. They don’t just work on one discipline. So this is a framework contract, it’s got – for creative, on and offline, it’s got for the first time, described social media because we saw people were just putting, “Yeah you can do social media” as another line on a scope of surfaces in their contract but it just didn’t describe things properly.

And now the contract, you can also lay in  simple app developments, simple web projects and PR if you want it and all the things that you might want in your marketing armoury.

The other thing that we’ve done this year is to ensure that to those contracts, you can add in extra projects as and when you need them, without having to renegotiate the entire contract. So we’ve called them retainer plus, because the plus bit is that you can add in more things as you need them because as I think you know, the world’s going to converge.

I just think clients are adding in more and more agencies on their roster, they’re spending more and more time managing agencies in a comms market that is more and more complex and I think the whole thing is going to implode. I think we may be going back to full service if we get the trust between the clients and the agency right because their heads are like mine as well, they’re all like Jackson Pollock paintings, how do you make sense of the whole thing?

Darren:

We’ve noticed that trend, we’ve absolutely noticed the trend of they diversify until they’ve got way too many agencies. In fact, in the last six months, we’ve done two major projects. 180 different suppliers for one client, and we got that down to 27.

Debbie:

Even 27’s too many if you think about it.

Darren:

Not just agencies, we’re talking about print companies and everything, and it was 180, every single supplier that the marketers were using came to 180. We got it down to 27. Of that, core agencies were about 6, you know, media, creative, PR, the core requirement.

Debbie:

It has to happen, it has to happen.

Darren:

They had multiple digital agencies, multiple PR agencies, but here’s the other thing, and following up on what you said; they had a variation of no contract to incredibly laborious, difficult, unworkable contracts.

When we first asked the marketing team about contracts, they all sort of stared at the ceiling and at each other, because no one had actually bothered to care whether they had contracts.

Debbie:

So that’s one of the reasons why we’ve put our frameworks together, so you can have consistency across all your companies you work with. But we’re also working on, which we’re going to launch next year, a vlogger and a blogger contract because again, we’ve talked to our membership and they’re using botched up, sort of slung-together employment contracts or talent contracts which just aren’t fit for that purpose.

So next year we’ll be launching that, and we’re working with the talent industry on that. So Gleam, who are a vloggers talent agency, because they too want greater systems in place for their vloggers.

Darren:

Well it creates clarity and responsibilities.

Debbie:

Absolutely.

Darren:

So that people know what they’re being paid for, what their rights and responsibilities are under the contract.

Debbie:

So that’s one of the things that we do is we’re listening constantly to all of these things and we then try to create better practice or next practice from what we’ve heard, from what people need.

The Importance of Pitching

Darren:

The first point for me was good pitch.

Debbie:

Yeah, good pitch.

Darren:

Is that 3 years ago?

Debbie:

Yeah, it’s three years ago. We did think that we might do Good Pitch week again but actually, what we realised was that – it doesn’t matter how keen your procurement person is going in to negotiate a great deal for you, if your brand teams are poor at briefing, then all of the iterations are just going to be eating up the funds, your funds, your agency funds.

So we decided instead of doing the pitch week again, that we would focus on highlighting some great briefing practices and really get people talking about briefing because I think what was evident from our conversations is that nobody spends any time thinking about briefing and how they can be better.

But actually, it’s the complete bedrock of what you do. It’s how do you evaluate and judge what’s created if you don’t have a really great brief with KPIs and an expression of what you are trying to achieve.

Darren:

Start, middle and end of the process is all based on the brief.

Debbie:

Yeah it is.

Darren:

I think you asked in the session last night how many people had actually been trained formally in writing a brief? There was a handful of people wasn’t there?

Debbie:

It was probably about a third of the room, wasn’t it? But I think generally, I hate this concept that there isn’t time to write a brief. I mean, it’s absolutely naff, if you haven’t got time to write a brief properly, then you shouldn’t be doing your job.

Darren:

We have a saying “there’s never time to get it right, but there’s always time to fix it” and that’s the sort of mindset that leads to, “I’ll just throw a few things down, I’ll text the brief through and then down the track when it all goes wrong, then we’ll shape it up”.

Debbie:

Yeah. And then once we started thinking about briefing, we then started to think about all the different elements of it, one of the marketing directors I was talking to said, “Oh my god, you’ve really got problems with the youngsters coming into the industry. They’re not interested in briefing. They don’t think they own it, they think that that’s the agency’s territory”, and that’s just bizarre.

And even my own son who’s just started working in advertising says that his clients ask him to write all the briefs. He says they’ll give him a call and then he’s got to interpret it which is just completely mental, but people are just not getting the training.

Unless you work in a P&G, or a Unilever, or a MARS and they have a very formal grad training scheme where they will train you in the P&G way of briefing, I think most companies just don’t pay any attention to it and it’s just learning on the job and you know, it’s not going to drive great value for you unless you’ve put some effort into it.

So who’s brief is it anyway? I’m not sure that the industry knows and again, all the young people coming through work very differently.

Marketers are Responsible for Making Change

Darren:

So you’ve said before, it’s both parties who are responsible and this is probably a subtle point of disagreement because I talk about the golden rule and that is, the man with the gold makes the rules, okay?

So we always operate on the basis that the marketer, with the budget, is actually in the ideal position to change structure, to change process, to change and set and change expectations that ultimately 100% reside with the marketers, the clients, because they are the ones that have the power to change the game.

Debbie:

Well they should be, and you tend to find that agencies mirror the client’s structure and the way that they operate, but I think so many clients are now scratching their heads about what their structure should be.

The agencies are scratching their heads at the same time because I don’t think it’s landed and I don’t think structures will land because I think things are evolving so quickly that everything will continue to evolve. So I worked with Unilever in 2010 on their new marketing structure and it hasn’t remained static since that point, it’s changed and morphed many times since then.

Then we’ve got what I call the big fat middle, in the U.K., of brands who are not even thinking about what they should do because I think their marketing director looks at the scale of change that’s required and they think about their tenure in the role and it’s probably not long enough for them to take any actions.

So, at the moment, I think they’re doing things that we call “adding digital bling”, rather than asking, should we become a digital business? And they’re adding on little bits of shiny digital, oh we’ll do the social media over here and whatever, but it isn’t addressing the core issues of what they need to do to their own structure in order to be fit to operate going forward.

They think they’re not going to be there long enough to make the difference that will be the next person’s role. But I think as the young people who are digital natives now are coming up through the ranks and when they take over, I don’t think that they will accept the structure of what they’ve got now because there are too many silos and you can’t operate in a siloed fashion in this world.

Darren:

Well that’s one of the key areas for us and we’ve been getting a lot of traction around the idea, especially in large siloed organisations where marketing is being distributed across those silos and then you’ve got the CEO at the top saying, “We want a single view of customer and we want to manage the customer experience”.

Marketing is in the ideal position to drive the change, the organisational and structural changes, to actually be the face of the brand to the market. So be the face of the customer.

Debbie:

Well that’s their role isn’t it? Hasn’t that always been their role?

Darren:

Well I think along the way it’s been confused with sales and promotion and a lot of other things, but marketing at the very core, is about being the face to the market or the face of the market.

Debbie:

It is. And representing the customer in the boardroom.

Darren:

Absolutely. This is why we’re getting the chief marketing officer, the CMO, starting in some companies, to become this chief customer officer, the CCO, who has the responsibility of being that interface for the customer.

So when the customer interacts with the brand at any touch point, the CCO, which is just a CMO on super drugs, on steroids, is starting to manage that but they can’t do it if their marketing resources are distributed across all those silos.

Complicated and Difficult Times

Debbie:

Well, I think it’s difficult times.

Darren:

It’s a challenge.

Debbie:

It’s hard. It’s all about change and change management is never easy, is it?

Darren:

No.

Debbie:

I was talking with Martin Sorrell from WPP the other week about this and he thinks that marketing’s lost its confidence and in particular, in the board room, they think they are ceding too much control to the finance officer and to the procurement fraternity and that they’ve lost their confidence and their voice as the customer in the board room.

It’s something to ponder and think on. Something that the industry needs to do something about, thinking about bolstering the confidence of marketing, because it’s vital, it’s the growth generator for an organisation.

Darren:

It is the growth generator Debbie, but it is budgeted as a cost of the business, it is not an investment.

Debbie:

And that’s the issue. It’s the first place that gets chopped if there are hard times.

Darren:

Sales is fine, if I put money into sales and I get revenue back and I get it in the short term, I get it in my quarterly reporting. But marketing, the great mystery, but also the magic of marketing, is it’s about building long term value and it supports sales but it’s not directly about sales.

Debbie:

Absolutely. And there’s too much tactical short termism in business now. Those long term visions, where are they? They’re probably in some of the bigger organisations but in most of the smaller marketing organisations, we’re back to the problem of the marketing director not feeling secure in their role and believing that within 14-18 months they will move on.

That doesn’t breed long term strategy, that breeds short term tactics to deliver while you can, while you’re still there and I firmly believe that that’s a lot to do with what’s wrong with the industry.

Darren:

So the big opportunity, like you said before, is in this big middle group of marketers in the U.K., because what we’ve found in the really big organisations with multiple silos, is everyone’s inclined to go, “Well it’s his responsibility or her responsibility” and point to someone else within the organisation.

What we’ve found is that in those smaller, medium sized businesses where there is only one marketing function and one person, they can start to have the conversations that one; get them traction in the c-suite, two; can get them onto the board and three; give them control over the whole of the face of market, not necessarily owning it, but coordinating it.

Having influence on the sales team, having influence on the call centre, having influence over the internet and e-commerce, so they can actually bring about this change because I just find that really large organisations are so fragmented.

Debbie:

Yeah and that’s a great opportunity but they need to grasp it and stop thinking, “I’m not going to be here tomorrow so I’m not going to do anything”, you’ve really got to go for it. I think they’ve got to find the energy.

Darren:

To loop that right back around, a lot of what you’re doing at ISBA is actually giving people best practice and next practice of what’s possible for them. I guess it’s up to them with what they do with it.

Debbie:

We can’t make them do anything but we can certainly provide them with the tools to provide them with the market information and what’s worked for other companies.

So that’s why we do all of these sort of sessions, we do a lot of networking sessions, we always try to get people to talk about how they’re operating or if they’ve done something differently because if it inspires one person in the room to go back and do something, then you’ve made a step forward. I think it’s just baby steps at the moment.

Move Fast and Break Things

Darren:

Well it is a chaotic world or a complex world. Trying things and succeeding or failing should be both seen as positive steps because if you try something and it fails, then you know to try something different. If you try something and it succeeds, share it with everyone so everyone can try it as well.

Debbie:

I think everybody is afraid of failure though aren’t they? And I think in this market you fail fast and Facebook say move fast, break things and you do need to persuade your organisation that you need a permission to fail culture.

Because, if you’ve got a permission to fail, then you’ve got permission to experiment. If you don’t change anything, nothing’s going to change in your business. So you’ve got to try experimenting with all of the new channels that are available and they might be the one thing that makes the step change for your organisation to success.

Darren:

Well when I worked in medical research, we didn’t call it, “an experiment of failure”, we said we had a negative result. So maybe that’s just changing the language.

Debbie:

It could be.

Darren:

We did an experiment and you either get a positive result, a neutral result or a negative result, so maybe that could be the language of experimentation for marketers.

Debbie:

Perhaps. I’ve seen Diageo speak about this on platforms and they say they actively expect their brand managers to have failures because otherwise they don’t learn anything. And I’ve heard them speak about that on platforms.

Darren:

In Silicon Valley they say, “If you haven’t had 3 failures, you haven’t tried hard enough”.

Debbie:

Well, it’s an interesting concept isn’t it? I love Silicon Valley and all the things we’re learning from there.

Darren:

Such the American attitude isn’t it?

How Do You Attract Talent?

Debbie:

I went to Facebook in the summer in Mountain View, it was like something out of the Truman Show. The people there, they live it, they breathe it. They look after them like parents so you know, your family comes in, you get free food, somebody valet parks your car when you get in in the morning because they don’t want you wasting time going to look for a car parking space.

They want you working, they want your ideas, they want you constantly thinking. So you know, these are the models that traditional organisations have to look to as sort of an always on economy and it’s no different anywhere now.

Darren:

It’s how you attract the best talent by creating a culture and environment. Google does it as well. I think there’s quite a few of those companies that really have got the right mindset.

Debbie:

Well we’ve worked with Google this year on something called the ‘talent revolution’.

 

We surveyed, I think it was about 1200 marketers, marketing chiefs. And we asked them about the skill sets of their teams in the digital environment, their digital skill sets. And what we’ve built is a base benchmark so that they can then evaluate how their teams compare to other organisations.

So there’s this sort of digital benchmark and what it’s done is highlighted the gaps in talent that these organisations have and so what we’ll do is we’ll build some workshops and some training and things in co-operation with Google to try and plug those gaps and it’s going to become a yearly session.

I mean it’s not just ISBA and Google, but it was with some other partners in the industry because we wanted to get that spread as wide as possible. So we’ll be doing that again next year so we’ll look at how the markers change over the years because talent’s a big problem.

I’m going to be talking about that at our conference in March of this year and I’ve got some people from L’Oréal and people who were really concerned about talent and where it’s coming from or more importantly, where it’s currently going because it’s not going into organisations, it’s going to the textile types and Silicon Valley and people who are doing just more interesting things.

Darren:

Changing the world.

The Next Generation and Their Traits

Debbie:

Changing the world, because particularly among the young people, millennials, they are the slash generation so they’ll say, “I’m a brand manager/dj” and they don’t want these linear roots inside organisations.

They do spaghetti, it’s spaghetti careers. They want to carve around all over the place and they’re not interested in going into one organisation and working their way slowly up, they want speed, they want excitement, so this is the generation that are coming through that our companies have to work with.

Darren:

I read a report, actually through media brands, where Gen Y and the millennials will have six separate careers in their lifetime. Now I’ve had three and you’ve had what, two?

Debbie:

Three. I’ve been client agency planner and this, yeah.

Darren:

So we’re half way there, and I’m a baby boomer, so, we obviously started a trend that’s followed through to Gen Y and the millennials; they’re just taking what we started and speeding it up.

Debbie:

And they’re just not loyal, they’re not loyal to anyone. They don’t have loyalties, they just want experience and interest and I guess most of them really want to start their own thing, don’t they? They don’t really want to work with an organisation so it’s a big challenge for the industry, how do you attract these people?

Darren:

How do you attract the best talent?

Debbie:

Yeah, I don’t think they even want to go off and work for management consultants or you know, the high paid starting salaries that they get in the city, I just think they crave more interest and more ways of operating.

Darren:

They want to make a difference, they want to feel like there’s a purpose to what they do and they want recognition and recognition is not just financial, recognition is actually about being seen as someone who is making a difference, who is doing something worthwhile and has purpose in their life.

Debbie:

So your Gen Y, what I would call centennials, the next people after millennials.

Darren:

No, the one before.

Debbie:

The one before, okay.

Darren:

X, Y and then millennials.

Debbie:

Okay. Because we’re now thinking about the centennials, the 12 to 18 year olds, they’re even worse. They’ve learnt from the millennials that they don’t want to splash everything all over the internet, they’re much more guarded about their privacy, about their data, about their information and I don’t know how you attract them.

So you’ve got yet another lot coming up and purpose is even more important to them, so they’re all just really different sets of people. So overlay that on a complex market, and you get even more complex.

Darren:

I’m starting to understand why you described your brain as a Jackson Pollock painting, because it’s just bits of colour and shape everywhere. But look, this has been fantastic, thank you for making time to have a chat.

Debbie:

That’s alright. Thank you for coming over to us from Oz.

Darren:

It’s been my pleasure. As soon as you asked, I made sure I could rearrange to be here so thanks for the invitation and we’ll speak soon.

Debbie:

Yeah, thank you!

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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