Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Steve Jobs' Advertising Secret: The Chief Executive As Creative Director

Madison Avenue is heading to the French Riviera this week for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Advertising’s version of Oscars night.
Marching on the red carpet will be an armada of 10,000 or so creative-types. In addition to art directors and copywriters, the crowd will include management types, account executives, media buyers, a few CMOs, and a potpourri of hangers-on.
And yet, some very important people will be missing from Cannes: Marketer-sideCEOs.
CEOs used to be very involved in the advertising and historically had close relationships with their agencies. Unfortunately, there are fewer companies today in which the CEO takes a real hands-on approach to the agency. Some of this distance reflects the changing nature of the CEO position. In the 1950’s and 1960’s the mantle had passed from the founder class, people like Charles Revson at Revlon who were intimately involved in the advertising, to professional CEOs who delegated the advertising functions to the new class of skilled CMOs.
Companies have changed in other ways: in the last quarter century, Finance and Operations emerged as the smoother path to the corner office. Today there are more CEOs with backgrounds in Finance, Sales or Operations on the Fortune-500 than with a background in Marketing, in contrast to previous trends.
But whether the CEO has a Marketing or a Finance background, I witnessed a pretty consistent phenomenon during my 30-years career with some of Madison Avenue’s leading agencies: When the CEO is involved in the advertising process and lends direct input, the ads tend to be better.
Steve Jobs was intimately involved in the advertising process and relentlessly pushed his agency, Chiat/Day. He even went so far as to write as writing the tag line “Think Different” himself.  Jobs certainly crossed the line between traditional client and agency relationship when he was willing to risk his own personal money to run the “1984” commercial in that year’s Super Bowl, considered by some the greatest ad ever, when the Apple board hesitated.
Of course, that kind of micro involvement can be counterproductive, especially if you don’t have the marketing and design sensibilities of Jobs. But when the CEO gets involved it sends a clear message to the organization – that advertising matters to the success of our company. It creates a culture of innovation and sets the creative standards higher.

No comments: