Where Are the CMOs (Chief Media Officers)?

Skills for the New Media Officers and Where to Find Them

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Right now I suspect that media recruiters are very busy. The ANA has decreed that every big brand should have a chief media officer, a new senior post that will be crucial to maximizing the value of their media investments.

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The hunt is on to find people who can fill this role; however, chief media officers -- perhaps best called media officer to avoid confusion with the CMO -- need a broad range of skills and they aren't going to be easy to find. Recruitment agencies will earn their fees if they can identify the best people for this role.

The new media officers will have three central goals. First, to help their organization be the best possible media client; second, to ensure they identify the best agency partners; and third, they need to ensure that media is accountable and delivering business growth.

They will become the new gatekeepers for media -- critical to success both for media owners and agencies. It's a role with real power.

Historically, most brands and agencies have focused their marketing and procurement skills on the sole task of managing agencies and, as the ANA report highlights, many haven't even done a very good job of that.

That underlines the fact that this vital new role requires a skillset that doesn't currently exist at most marketing organizations.

Of course, some high-profile companies have nurtured their internal media structures and have valued experienced media leaders. Unilever, P&G and Mondelez, formerly Kraft, are just three to have bucked the trends identified by the ANA.

My own personal experiences at The Coca-Cola Co. and Nike have shown how progressive internal media governance practices can be hugely effective, whether locally managed but backed up by a strong central team as at Coke, or more centrally and regionally controlled as at Nike.

All of these companies have benefited by treating media investment as a lever for business growth, enabling them to challenge and get the best out of their marketing communications and media agency partners.

For companies without a well-established media leadership team, however, finding the right people with the appropriate skillset and capabilities to act as the media officer will be a challenge. Here are the skills they will need:

  • They will have to ensure that media remains on the C-suite agenda, even after the publicity surrounding the ANA report has died down.
  • They will need the charisma and internal respect to be able to champion the role of media well beyond marketing and procurement.
  • They will need to be skilled at defining and implementing the right targets and measurement so they can demonstrate media's direct contribution to business performance.
  • They will need to control and be accountable for large global media investments and capable of overseeing significant negotiations with key vendors and media partners.
  • They also need to identify and champion new technologies, while creating an internal culture of strong media behavior and continuous incremental improvement.

It's no easy task and it requires a highly experienced operator. Media recruiters will be looking for someone with a profound understanding of media, media agencies and how the media supply chain operates in order to ensure best value.

They will need proven leadership experience at a global or regional level; for brands focused primarily on a single large market such as the U.S., senior local experience will be a prerequisite. What's critical is that they have the authority to operate at a very senior level within a brand marketing organization.

So where are these people most likely to come from? Most of them are likely to be currently working within the agency community, holding very senior client leadership or agency operational roles such as chief client officer roles or global/regional COOs.

Such experts will also find that life within a brand marketing organization is a significant cultural change. They will need to be able to make the change to managing multiple stakeholders with varying degrees of media knowledge quickly and rapidly learn to navigate what can be complex, multilayered, matrix organizations.

That's in addition to working out what levers are required to get the very best out of their external partners.

If advertisers want to take back control of media and to heed the rallying cry sent from the ANA, then empowering an internal media officer will be critical. The first step will be finding the right person.

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