CMO tenures grow longer: study

Women better represented in CMO roles than elsewhere in C-suite

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Raja Rajamannar of Mastercard and Kristin Lemkau of Chase
Raja Rajamannar of Mastercard and Kristin Lemkau of Chase Credit: Composite by Ad Age. Photos by Getty Images

Average CMO tenure is getting a bit longer, and while women are still in the minority, they're better represented among chief marketing officers than anywhere else in the C-suite, according to a new study by sales intelligence firm Winmo.

The mean CMO tenure among 2,400 executives in the study was almost 43 months. The median was 33, as some particularly long-lived CMOs pulled up the mean. (Unilever's Keith Weed, who will retire next year after nine years, and Procter & Gamble Co. Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard, who already has logged 10, come to mind.)

Tenures measured by Winmo are up considerably from a mean of 37.5 and median of 27 months in its March 2017 study covering 1,400 executives. A study from Spencer Stuart released earlier this year of CMOs at 100 leading advertisers found a mean tenure of 44 months and median of 31.

Winmo points out good reasons to care about CMO tenure, beyond implications for your own job. The sales-prospecting firm says most agency reviews begin six to 18 months after a CMO hire, with new campaigns (and media-selling opportunities) following shortly thereafter.

Women held almost 42 percent of CMO posts in the Winmo study, not far from the 45 percent of top marketers among members of the Association of National Advertisers, the group reported earlier this year.

Women aren't at parity either way, but Winmo notes they are far better represented among CMOs than elsewhere in the C-suite, where only 4 percent of CEOs, 12 percent of chief financial officers and 9 percent of chief information officers are women.

And parity may be getting closer. Kimberly-Clark Corp., Walmart and Clorox Co. are among companies that announced the replacement of male CMOs with females in the past six months alone.

Once women get the CMO job, however, they don't last as long—an average of 37.5 months versus 42.8 months for men—per Winmo.

Gender breakdown and tenure varies substantially by industry. Winmo found women and men almost equally represented as CMOs among digital business providers, while at restaurants male CMOs outnumbered female almost 2 to 1.

CMO tenures were longest at financial-services firms—averaging 39 months—and shortest at digital service providers, 24 months.

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