Beware the appointment of a new marketing director – as CHI is finding out with ‘successful’ client Argos

Agencies are always unsettled when a new marketing director arrives at one of their clients. The wisdom handed down over the years is a new marketing director will attack the easy things to change to make a mark quickly such as a logo alteration, packaging design and of course the creative agency. All are visible for everyone to see.

Marketing magazine has published their most recalled campaigns of 2013 based on the Adwatch column. The #1 campaign is for Argos from CHI & Partners but Argos has still called a review of the £55m advertising account. Argos has a new marketing director!

Stephen Vowles has joined from Ladbrokes where he appointed SapientNitro in July 2011. Immediately upon his departure Ladbrokes also called a review. So it feels like musical chairs all round.

CHI has been invited to re-pitch for the business, a bit of an insult given their contribution to Argos. I wonder why a new marketing director can’t spend time getting to know the agency he/she inherits and works with them for, say, a year to figure out the pros and cons?

At Ogilvy I was closely involved with the creation and launch of MORE TH>N for RSA which was a major event for the parent company. Everything went swimmingly well until a marketing director was appointed just prior to the launch. The chap’s name was Mike Tildesley and, as far as we could tell, he hadn’t ever worked on a major advertising account and seemed to have little experience with TV. He made it clear from our first meeting he wasn’t going to be a collaborative client and over the next twelve months we experienced death by a thousand cuts.

He then appointed an agency none of us had heard of without the courtesy of any advance warning, or discussion about why he intended changing the agency relationship

I read some time later that Mr Tildesley was claiming sole credit for the creation of MORE TH>N but he had rock all to do with it, he just turned up as it was about to launch when all the hard work had been completed.

Since then they have had a new campaign with every new marketing director.

What surprises me with companies like Argos and MORE TH>N is why top management allow a new boy to change a crucial partner who has built a huge asset for their business; in the case of Argos after spending £100m + on their Aliens advertising which is also the most recalled campaign of 2013.

Why not learn from brands such as Apple who sustain their brand persona irrespective of the revolving doors in the marketing department?

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies.
Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.

One comment

  1. Mr. Simons is right, but people in marketing are too vain to admit that their predecessors did anything right. At the same time, the top management of most brands do not truly understand marketing and tend to underestimate it, which is why their attitude is “marketing is too unimportant for me to deal with”. This is sad, but also often very expensive way of thinking.

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