Since the inception of the program at the start of 2013, between
five and 10 CMOs per month are adding recommendations. Mr. Krainik
says the listings are growing, with multiple reviews for some
vendors, as well as reviews for some bigger agencies. The group
last week began the program promoting the with a PR push.
Evan Greene, CMO for the Grammys, says he's a "big fan" of the
vendor-rating program and has both submitted reviews and used the
service for recommendations. "It's really helpful to see what
people in a similar role are doing. ... It's an open exchange of
ideas and recommendations," Mr. Greene said of the program.
But will busy marketers -- who are worrying about everything
from product development to distribution channels to consumer
awareness, and not just their agency relationships -- have time to
regularly log on to submit their recommendations? And moreover,
will they actually be willing to spill the beans? After all, most
marketers view the work done by their agencies as a competitive
The review process is not "laborious" Mr. Krainik says, though
it certainly is thorough. Each entry has 15 questions, with a mix
of drop-down menus and open-ended questions, in addition to basic
information like reviewer name and vendor name. CMOs can rank
vendors on quality of service, on-time delivery, price and customer
service. Mr. Krainik says that reviews can't be anonymous, and
notes that he has personally approved each member of the club.
"I don't feel any hesitation to share any recommendations of
people who do good work," Mr. Greene said. He noted that to date,
he's not observed CMOs using the platform to warn their peers about
vendors to steer clear of.
Ad Age spoke to several executives at the 4A's Transformation
Conference in New Orleans -- which gathers creative and media
agency leaders for three days each year -- about this new CMO Club
initiative to get their take.
Jack Klues, the soon-to-retire CEO of Publicis Groupe's Vivaki,
one of the speakers at the conference, had this to say: "A
confidential sharing of experiences within this group seems no
different than that provided by Glass Door, which allows employees
a place to anonymously share their experiences with current past
employers. I welcome constructive, credible criticism. Rants and
complaints without context or substantiation help no one."
Most agency executives at the event told Ad Age they believed
that radical transparency is where this industry is heading anyway,
so this initiative is merely part and parcel of such a
"Given the tenure of CMOs, they are under intense pressure to
make immediate and impactful successes for brands and the overall
business," said Deutsch New York CEO
Val DiFebo. "Will this help them? I'm curious about the topics CMOs
will be rating, to determine if this type of service will be
valuable or have utility ... Will it be useful in determining how
an agency's chemistry works with a particular client? Will it
monetize the success of ideas an agency generates for brands?"
"I think it is a good idea and if implemented the right way with
proper guardrails it could be useful," said Horizon CEO Bill
Koenigsberg. However, he added, "I'm not sure the crossover in whom
all the CMOs are rating is broad enough to have a large enough
Bob Liodice, head of the Association of National Advertisers,
told Ad Age the idea of CMOs banding together in one place to share
feedback on the companies they work with definitely has merit. What
concerns him about program, however, is the "ratings" component,
which can he fears can prompt overly subjective responses and
unintentionally tar the reputations of very good agencies and other
companies that work with marketers.
The ANA itself in the past tried a pilot program with what it
called the Marketing Knowledge Center, which had a ratings
mechanism about various topics of marketing information but didn't
permit the ratings of individual companies, nor was it shared
broadly with the members. But it has since pulled the program
because it didn't yield what the ANA deemed reputable opinions.
Where nearly all of the folks we spoke to for this piece did
take issue with the new initiative is in its branding. By using the
term "vendor," it casts an unpleasant feeling upon the value of
agencies to clients, several people noted. It's a term that doesn't
signal strategic advice that agencies are called upon, or the ways
in which agencies help improve marketers' bottom lines.
Still, if it keeps heading in the current direction, the program
could turn out to be a good thing for shops. While some may bristle
at the idea of CMOs sharing information in such a structured way,
Mr. Krainik says, so far, most of the reviews are positive.
"Because CMOs are so busy, they're writing about what they
recommend," and not using it as a forum to air grievances he said,
noting 19 of 20 reviews are positive. He also added that the
information listed in the vendor-rating program won't be available
publicly. "The plan is not to open this up for everyone to take a
look at. This is not-a-for-sale thing."
~~ Contributing: Alexandra Bruell, Rupal Parekh