‘If you pay peanuts you’ll get monkeys and it will get shitty’ says secret CMO

CMO confidential Mumbrella360In one of the most unusual sessions in the history of the conference four senior chief marketers have lifted the lid on what they love and loathe about their creative agencies on stage at Mumbrella360 – hidden behind a screen.

Among the observations covered off by the four, dubbed Mr Travel, Mr Retail, Miss Finance and Mr Alcohol by session convenor and founder of New Business Methodology Julia Vargiu – were candid views and observations about dodgy practices, lazy work and supreme levels of services, leaving many in the audience wondering if it was them being talked about.

Their answers were relayed to delegates at the Mumbrella360 conference in Sydney this morning, with their voices disguised to avoid identification.

Asked how agencies can set themselves apart from competitors, Mr Travel said: “A lot of agencies pitch themselves  the same way. When you sit down in a pitch presentation they all say ‘here’s our process that is grounded in consumer insight, our creatives aren’t precious, we are not interested in awards, we are into effectivness. Yawn.”

Miss Finance described agencies as “a dime a dozen” who “beat their own chests about how they intricately know our category’ but paying lip service just won’t cut it anymore.”

Many marketers used to work agency side and “can see through the credentials bullshit”. She said one agency recently listed all their many and varied clients but could not demonstrate any tangible results”.

Asked how an agency unknown to a brand should go about secturing a meeting, Mr Alcohol suggested they should “call, call, call” and “make me laugh” because that’s what the brand is trying to do with consumers”.

However, Mr Retail said: “I often get asked by agencies ‘what keeps you up at night’ and I’m tempted to say ‘what keeps me up at night is agencies calling me’.”

One of the pet hates of the finance CMO is the tendency for the agencies’ senior management to vanish as soon as they win business.

They are “all over us” when pitching for the business, she said, but then hand over the relationship to junior members of staff who are unable to hold senior level strategic conversations.

“It is not fair on the junior staff, it is setting them on fire,” she said. She added her company doesn’t so much change agencies as follow creative teams when they move agencies.

Mr Alcohol warned agencies not to start taking the business for granted and get “too comfortable” while the travel CMO urged agencies to approach the client with a broader remit than just creative duties.

On remuneration, the CMOs claimed they were prepared to pay a fair rate and urged agencies not to under-price and then return to the client looking to renegotiate – a regular practice.

“Be honest with us,” the retail CMO said.

Mr Alcohol added: “If you pay peanuts you’ll get monkeys and it will get shitty.”

He added that agenies can also “keep doing the same things over and over again” which leads to the relationship going “stale”.

The travel marketer said agencies are prone to over promising by pledging 50 per cent of an employees’ times to three different clients.”

He also said agencies and clients waste far too much time “sweating the small stuff” and arguing over a “pissy advert that is only going to appear in a men’s toilet cubicle”.

Such debate means less time for discussing and working on more important issues,” he said, adding that agencies tend to get “jaded” when small issues are blown up.

Related: Mumbrella360 video: CMO Confidential


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