Forbes published a perspective from Goodby Silverstein & Partners Co-Founder and Co-Chairman Jeff Goodby titled, “A Survival Guide For New CMOs,” where the adman essentially presented a pep talk on how to become a better Chief Marketing Officer. Gee, can’t imagine the average CMO is interested in employment tips from an old-school White advertising agency creative director. After all, Goodby technically works for CMOs, not vice versa.
There are a few basic—and blatant—flaws with Goodby’s desire to play sensei to prospective bosses, revealing the inherent character defects of Old White Guys and narcissistic nimrods. (This is presuming that Goodby wasn’t actually writing an invitation of sorts, indirectly indicating the qualities and characteristics he longs for in a CMO buddy—in which case he would still come across as an Old White Guy and narcissistic nimrod.)
For starters, only a fool seeks to change others. Your first priority must be to change yourself. In fact, it should be the sole goal, as we really can’t control other people’s actions and attitudes—unless we have the authority to fire them. While there are advertising agency executives who have boasted firing clients, the overwhelming majority realizes they are servicing—and even serving—at the pleasure of a CMO.
Related to the point above, we must always begin by honestly examining our own contributions in a professional relationship. That is, are we doing everything possible to ensure premier profitability*—in every sense of the term—for all parties? And more importantly, are we causing problems that hinder success?
Unfortunately, advertising agency executives such as Goodby inadvertently erect roadblocks and dilemmas for CMOs, primarily because of ties to holding companies. Thanks to WPP, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe, IPG and the rest, agencies experience the same challenges as advertisers: e.g., the imperative to hit quarterly earnings, reduced and limited resources, unrealistic deadlines, consensus and committee thinking, clumsy hierarchies, revolving door management shifts, unclear priorities, dysfunctional partnerships, etc. Additionally, the holding companies have commoditized agencies, rendering shops generic. Agencies ultimately bow to the holding companies’ whims, which are every bit as awful as the bullshit dumped on advertisers by their overlords.
Omnicom, Goodby’s parent Death Star, is a master at the game. How else can one rationalize Goodby Silverstein & Partners being replaced as AOR for PepsiCo’s Propel Zero by Fathom Communications? Or the shuffling of the Quaker Oats account through Omnicom sister shops? Or the insane maneuverings in the Commonwealth debacle? Sorry, but Goodby is a mere puppet in the modern political proceedings, making his CMOs preaching and pontifications pretty pathetic.
In the survival guide lecture, Goodby also veered into a sad tangent regarding account reviews, decisiveness and speed. Goodby wrote:
Almost all CMOs of any stature have loads of ready opinions about which campaigns they admire. They all have strong thoughts about who the best four or five agencies in the world are. But the moment they move into a new job, they totally forget all this and act like they’ve just landed here from the planet Zork.
If you need a search consultant to help you make this decision, fine. Tell him or her that you want to have an agency in a month. One month. Tell the agency you want the new campaign a month after that. Watch. It will happen. And it will be good.
Um, Goodby sounds like a citizen from the planet Zork. Holding companies and conflicts prevent staging shootouts starring “the best four or five agencies in the world.” Hell, Omnicom routinely organizes closed competitions between sister shops. Plus, the aforementioned commoditization and generic issues result in reviews with a hodgepodge of rivals. For example, the NBA is currently pitting incumbent Goodby Silverstein & Partners versus R/GA and Translation—which undoubtedly has Goodby banging his head against the wall.
Goodby’s speed statements—“Tell the agency you want the new campaign a month after that. Watch. It will happen. And it will be good.”—are outrageous. Whatever happened to fighting for time to properly craft messages? Most agencies fail to generate good work with a decent production schedule in place. Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ campaigns for Sprint and Quaker Oats were hardly breakthrough. The agency’s cross-cultural milk campaign sucks. Are these examples of churning crap out in a month? Goodby should take a moment to rethink his words.
“A Survival Guide For New CMOs” reflects Goodby’s corporate cluelessness and outdated beliefs. Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis composition, allowing Goodby to air his frustrations of coping with constant chaos. Harkening back to the glory days of tyrannical clients positions the adman as a doddering dinosaur. CMOs with the potential to become the next Steve Jobs can be counted on one hand—and Captain Hook’s notorious hand at that.
The 2014 Jeff Goodby is no 1983 Jeff Goodby. He acknowledges today’s CMOs cover more responsibilities than ever—responsibilities that Goodby Silverstein & Partners do not comprehend or influence. Yet Goodby is apparently still living the delusion that the universe revolves around big ideas exclusively hatched by the White advertising agencies.
Goodby’s condescension and prima donna tone hurt the pitch. The adman missed an opportunity to inspire. “A Survival Guide For New CMOs” could have been “GS&P Amazingly Extends New CMOs’ Lifespans” or “How New CMOs Can Win Trips To Cannes.” He needed to show how Goodby Silverstein & Partners help turn new CMOs into rock stars. The focus should have been on Goodby’s performance and the wonders he and his agency bring to the party, as opposed to recommending what his bosses ought to be doing.
Finally, why the hell is Goodby advising CMOs on job security? In recent years, Goodby Silverstein & Partners lost Quaker Oats, Propel Zero, Sprint, Hewlett-Packard, Chevrolet, Corona Light and Modelo Especial. And the agency is not alone in having billings and business yanked in 45-month intervals. Account reviews are as common as corny jingles. In the end, the short tour of duty applies to both sides of the equation. So it’s kinda crazy for a traditional White advertising agency executive to be explaining job security to his employers.
To summarize: Transformational change begins with you, not them.
*Addendum: Premier Profitability is a term intended to cover a range of objectives. The word profitability goes beyond sales figures and financial gains to include profiting or benefiting in professional and personal ways. Careers should advance and happiness should ensue. The creative content has to generate awareness, entice responses, build relationships, provide entertainment, deliver information, win awards, etc.—it must delight and impress the creators, agency partners, clients, consumers and industry peers.