What Would Jeff Goodby Do If He Were a CMO?

GSP founder shares some survival skills

Jeff Goodby is no stranger to difficult agency reviews, the latest of which was Nissan's Infiniti, in which Goodby Silverstein & Partners was a finalist in the nearly year-long slog for the business that went to the other remaining contender, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, last month.

On the other hand, Goodby has been the beneficiary of client relationships, like the one in 2010 with newly named General Motors marketing chief Joel Ewanick, who moved the Chevrolet account to GS&P—without a review—after working with GS&P previously on Hyundai. (In the case of Ewanick, who exited GM in 2012, survival may have ultimately had less to do with the advertising product.)

In a new column for Forbes, the agency co-founder used his extensive career in working with CMOs to muse on the longevity of chief marketing officers, writing "A CMO we worked with not too long ago reflected on his firing: 'I learned my lesson. I’m going to get fired in the end anyway. From now on, I’m just going to go for it, from day one.'"

Among Goodby's thoughts:

  • "Recently, after my agency put together months-long, drawn-out pitches involving hundreds of hours of creative time, CMOs from two different firms both pronounced, “Don’t forget. We are picking an agency, not picking work. Wait. What? If that were really true, they could have made the decision by looking at our website and meeting up a few times…. Maybe the problem is not so much the shortness of the (CMO) tenure as what our CMOs are doing with that time."
  • "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."
  • "Consensus decision making, in which everyone’s opinion is carefully sought out and somehow miraculously weighs the same, is all too often the norm. The CMO speaks last and not particularly clearly…. Many CMOs don’t speak clearly at meetings because they don’t want to be on the record about what they really think—it might bring responsibility. The next step becomes shrouded in fog."
  • "Laborious crowdsourcing is undertaken in a never-ending evasion of all responsibility for the final product. A world emerges in which no one recognizably makes a decision anymore, ever…. We need empire builders, not consensus builders. My heart is warmed by the clear thinking and blitzkrieg work that (CMO) Mike Sievert and (CEO) John Legere are doing at T-Mobile. Fast, fun and it’s working.
  • "Do not fear research. Although many think that research is the last thing they’d want lying around and exposing their lameness, big data is in fact your best friend. Set clear goals, and use research early and often to prove whether they’re met. If not, adjust. Everyone will give you credit for your openness and courage. If the goals are met, broadcast it. Buy drinks. The only thing to fear is fear of knowing. People will think it’s because you care so much about the company, but it’s really all about you."