Has the focus of marketing investment shifted back to short-term response?

George Frielick, Communications Planning Manager


Advertising has a big favourability problem. Consumers have never liked and trusted it less. I have an idea why.

Since publication in 2007, Les Binet and Peter Field’s ‘Marketing in the Era of Accountability’ has established itself as a bible for effective advertising. It was tipped to be the catalyst in a change in approach for planning media, one focused on long-term brand building and a now proven increase in profit gains.

But a decade later short-termism is an accelerating trend. The 2017 Binet & Field research shows a significant increase in brands chasing activation effects (short-term) versus brand awareness effects (long-term) over the last 10 years. The result of this is a fall in effectiveness.

The average Chief Marketing Officer is now in post for between 18-24 months. And from day one, those CMOs are under-pressure to deliver short-term ROI to private equity investors or C-suite executives who don’t truly understand the long-term value of brand.

The agency world isn’t immune to this problem. Sir Martin Sorrell admitted before he exited WPP that PLC advertising firms (networks) faced growing pressure from activist investors for short-term returns. That’s bad news for clients as those returns can only come from reducing costs – less resource on your business; or increasing margins – finding ways to make more money from your spend often in ways that are less than transparent to marketing and procurement functions.



At Republic of Media we’ve also seen more briefs specifically focused on satisfying investors with short-term objectives (as without them, the long-term will never happen which is a rock and a hard place type scenario).

Whilst the above instances will be contributing to the way in which companies are continuing to focus on immediate results, it’s the disruption of digital and the science of attribution that I believe is driving the current imbalance of where marketing investment should sit.

Bill Bernbach said in 1947 that “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion, and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art” and evidence suggests that’s still the case. Human decision is nearly always driven by emotion, even in the most rational categories. Many of the most profound effects of brand advertising are intangible, very hard to measure and take a far longer time to work.

Not every purchase cycle happens in a matter of weeks. Just because I can’t afford an OMEGA Seamaster right now, doesn’t mean I don’t need want one.

To reset the balance, more education is required. You can’t be an engineer unless you’ve studied the principles of engineering, so you shouldn’t be a marketer unless you understand the principles of advertising. To prove that the long-term approach works, we need the auditors, brand owners, trade bodies and agencies united behind what is right and collectively talking about the 3-5-year cycle. We should still be reviewing media quality on a short-term basis, but auditing the longer-term success will change the perception of what marketing is for.

And it’ll mean better advertising, which may just solve our favourability problem.