Marketing to the Marketers

At the Conference Board’s senior-level marketing roundtable today, where the room at the Barclay’s hotel was filled with execs who determine the budgets that eventually find their way to the ads that pay a lot of the salaries of those of us in the media. Most surprising was to hear how these folks — who spend billions to get people to buy their companies’ stuff and keep those companies afloat — still all these years after marketing became a “discipline” are being asked to justify their existence.

A dirty little secret breathed loudly, and forlornedly (I know it’s not a real word), at the conference is that the finance guys who control the purse strings still aren’t convinced all that marketing (including ad) money isn’t wasted. What the marketers need from us media types is proof that whatever ad space we’re selling them really does lead to sales.

Because if you can measure it, they can take those measurements and bring them back to ask for more budget next time around.

So, in an attempt to prove it to the CFOs, many of the CMOs are plugging all their stuff into “dashboards,” software-based data displays with lots of whirligigs and graphs and pie charts, all of which basically show return on investment (“If I spend $X on marketing I’ll get $X+ in sales.”). Help them do that and — God save us — learn about their whirligigs, and maybe you’ll get more of their dollars on your site, or mag, or TV show or whatever.