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Reckitt’s Phil Thomas tops UK marketing directors list – but do these people have real power any more?

They do in some places obviously – witness Joel Ewanick’s doings at General Motors.

But in the UK these days marketing directors seem to be regarded as disposable, important for a while but unlikely to make it to the top job in most companies, not least because they are thought not to have the financial knowhow to deal with the City.

There are exceptions of course, Sir Terry Leahy at Tesco and Alan Leighton’s Martians, including Justin King and Richard Barber, who have whizzed up the retail trade.

And the top hombre in Marketing’s Power 100 list is Phil Thomas of Reckitt-Benckiser but, with all due respect to Phil, this is probably more to do with Reckitt’s embedded and old-fashioned view of advertising (batter the consumer into submission and hang creativity) than it is his personal influence.

It would be surprising if CEO Bart Becht, Britain’s top paid executive, doesn’t look at all the ads.

Actually there are six gals in the top ten, which is good obviously although cynics would say that this just means that marketing is regarded as fluffy these days.

But the job of marketing director is seen increasingly as a stint you do on the way to the top, or not. And chief operating officer is probably better than being CMO.

Sir Frank Lowe thinks that former Cadbury marketing director Phil Rumbol is the best of the breed in Britain but Phil is out of a job having declined to be shifted to Zurich after Kraft took over Cadbury.

Rumbol had long stints at Heineken and then InBev (where he worked with Lowe) before joining Cadbury in 2006 where he oversaw the phenomenally successful Cadbury ‘Gorilla’ ad. But that didn’t seem to convince Kraft that they should retain his services even though it boosted the value of Cadbury enormously.

So is this estimable list from Marketing really a Power 100?

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Bart Becht marketing power 100 Phil Rumbol Phil Thomas Reckitt-Benckiser Sir Frank Lowe

About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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