The Future of Marketing?

by Chris Kenton on February 14, 2006

This story has been rattling around in my head ever since it was reported a couple of weeks back, but I haven’t seen a lot of commentary on it. AdAge reported that Ford has hired Accenture to audit its marketing plans for major car model launches. Without getting into a discussion on the merits or failings of Accenture, or the particuluar challenges faced by Ford, it’s a significant sign of the fault lines emerging in the marketing industry.

Businesses have been griping for years about the failings of the agency model–largely to no avail. But when a major U.S. corporation hires a business consulting firm to audit it’s marketing plans, you can no longer ignore the obvious fact that marketing agencies have let a tremendous void grow between themselves and their clients. I would lable that void: Boardroom Credibility. And business consulting firms like Accenture have obviously determined it’s a void they can drive a Brinks truck through.

Ford takes pains to say that this isn’t a creative issue–that Accenture won’t be replacing their other agencies–but that only rubs salt into the wound. It’s like saying, "you creative types, don’t worry your little heads about this, just go on making pretty pictures, or whatever it is you do, while the grownups talk business." Clearly Ford has major concerns about its marketing investment which their agencies have failed to mitigate. Now Ford is looking beyond the agency for strategy validation.

Talk about dropping the ball…

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mack Collier February 14, 2006 at 4:12 pm

“It’s like saying, “you creative types, don’t worry your little heads about this, just go on making pretty pictures, or whatever it is you do, while the grownups talk business.” Clearly Ford has major concerns about its marketing investment which their agencies have failed to mitigate. Now Ford is looking beyond the agency for strategy validation.”

Well said, and I think there is good reason for marketing firms to be concerned.

Brooks Jordan February 15, 2006 at 11:32 am

Chris,

That’s just fascinating. What kind of hybrid marketing organization is emerging, do you think? Where’s the business opportunity? I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

Equally remarkable, I think, are the battles within companies to be accountable for their own future through marketing. I saw Martyn Etheringon, VP of Worldwide Marketing at Tektronix, speak yesterday about his honest attempt to do so, and it’s a good one. I did a short post on his talk at our site.

Chris February 15, 2006 at 3:22 pm

I’m not sure if it’s a hybrid organization that will emerge, so much as that Business Consultancies will build a business practice around auditing and validating marketing programs. That means agencies that have been striving for years to build a strategic voice will be slapped back down to the level of token creatives.

It’s no surprise: Marketing expenses are often the largest line item in the budget, with the least accountability for performance. Who better to audit those expenses than business consulting and accounting firms? (That’s rhetorical.)

The danger, of course, is that business consulting firms–even when they buy up marketing metrics companies–are, almost by definition, working from the resource side of the equation rather than the market side of the equation. That means many companies will run the risk of becoming remarkably efficient and effective at marketing poorly.

But hey. At least the numbers will add up…

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