CMOs And The Devils They Know


After almost 18 years of being a partner in Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising, the most surprising thing I’ve found is the number of clients who are in miserable relationships with their agencies.

In fact, a recent Chief Marketing Officer survey showed only 33% were happy with their relationships. Which leaves 67% unhappy–– but staying put.

I’ve heard the complaints: “my agency is too slow”… “too expensive”… “doesn’t know my business”… “isn’t creative”… “is unresponsive”… “isn’t strategic”… “has juniors cutting their teeth on my account”… “just wants to rack up billable hours”… “only cares about their P & L”… “just wants to win creative awards”… “doesn’t know new media”… “nickel and dimes me to death”… “doesn’t understand my customers”… “is always trying to sell more services”… “doesn’t understand our corporate goals”… “only cares about paying its global holding company”… and on and on and on.

Still, these miserable marketers remain loyal to their whipping children. Why? I’ve heard their response many times: “The devil I know is better than the devil I don’t.”

It doesn’t make any sense. With that outlook, no matter what you do, you’re still in hell.

My advice to those two-thirds of CMOs in unhappy relationships? Test drive another agency. One that’s done work you like, with people you like. Give them a real project, not some branding assignment jump ball (AKA: “come-play-the-let’s-get-lucky-lottery”).

Be totally open and brutally honest. See how the agency operates under real world conditions. If they’re as good as they say they are (we all say we’re fantastic, right?), then give them some more work.

Or, give them a shot at your whole business. You may not find immediate salvation, but al least you’ll escape the hell of the devil you know.