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The problems with most chief marketing officers is that they rose to their position through the wrong channels- from sales, research, finance, not the creative sides of business.

Usually given a ridiculously short window to improve results, they swing for home runs, instead of making efforts to get people on base more often. Advertising efforts are cumulative in nature, and while, hitting home runs is awesome, consistent incremental campaigns will win more games than one big hit.

How long has it been since Wendy’s had a “where’s the beef” moment? A campaign that transcended an immediate problem. For it to be a big idea, it really needs to be able to be more than a one-trick pony. Apple had it with their “i’m a Mac, I’m a PC” campaign where the vehicle had legs.

We’ve co-opted AA’s 12 steps to use for your marketing addiction and bad behavior.

The 12 Steps Approach to Better Relationships with your Advertising Agency/CMO for CEOs

  1. We admitted we were powerless over consumers—that our marketing efforts had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a we thought we could improve results by changing directions frequently in our messaging..
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our marketing over to the care of experts, not salespeople..
  4. Made a searching and fearless brand and category inventory.
  5. Admitted to the market, to ourselves, and to a well chosen, trusted partner,  the exact nature of our missteps as we understand them.
  6. We’re entirely ready to have the right ad agency remove all these defects of our past misguided efforts.
  7. Humbly asked the world to forget our past shortcomings and give us another chance.
  8. Made a list of all stakeholders we had harmed, ignored, treated poorly and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to stakeholders wherever possible, except when to do so would mortally wound our company.
  10. Continued to take a brand inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through strategic briefs and intelligent digital insights to improve our relationships with our markets as we understood them, using  data of their interests for improved communications and the power to build our relationships.
  12. Having had a marketing awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to consumers, stakeholders and markets  to practice these principles in all our marketing efforts.

See Domino’s Pizza Turnaround campaign for how Crispin Porter + Bogusky led a company that had lost its way back to health.

We hope you found this informative, and have printed out a copy of the 12 steps to use as a guideline in choosing your next CMO or Agency, and will work diligently to improve your own approach to your marketing challenges.

The quintessential proof that you’ve found salvation, is when you find an agency that you are willing to trust and work with for the long haul, together. Look at the relationship between Apple and TBWA/Chiat Day, or Nike and Wieden and Kennedy. The agency’s grew as their clients did, not because they grew more clients, or won accounts by promising the world.

Find the agency that’s strategically right for you and where you will be their biggest and best client- not, the one that they needed to keep growing and using as a proving ground for their rookies (yes- that happens when you hire a hot-shop that’s out of your league).

See this effort by the usually top-notch Droga5 for IHOP- formerly known as the International House of Pancakes, now…

Yes, it got a lot of attention, yes, it got free media, but, is this sustainable brand equity, or disruption for attentions sake?

And although, it was written by a reformed addict, the big book of recovering adverholics isn’t obvious at first sight, and the above 12 steps don’t appear anywhere in it, we highly recommend “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” as a first reading on your way to better, more strategic advertising.

Good luck on your journey.