Agencies Hiring Their Own Chief Marketing Officers

Heads up. There’s a client in the building.

According to Dirct Marketing News:

Several shops recently appointed their first marketing chiefs, among them Draftfcb, which named Debra Coughlin, previously CMO and EVP at Citigroup’s Citi Cards unit, to the position this spring. 


“Agencies are terrific about helping clients develop their brands, but not always terrific about monitoring, developing and guiding their own brands,” explained Coughlin, who reports directly to Draftfcb CEO and president Laurence Boschetto. She also works closely with the worldwide creative lead, she said, “because that is our product in the marketplace.” She added that she is mostly involved with winning new business.


Marian Salzman, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America, who served in a CMO role at JWT, explained there’s a simple reason more agencies are tapping marketing chiefs: “We’re all hanging onto growth by our dear fingers.” The CMO role, Salzman said, means that someone is “out there always driving growth more objectively” on behalf of the agency.

Another role that needs filling inside of agencies (and client organizations) is Chief Content Officer (CCO).

Joe Pulizzi, Executive Director of the Content Marketing Institute, highlights the struggle:

Positioning a Chief Content Officer to take control of the brand story is going to take a while. I’ve recently talked to two Fortune 50 CMOs that are trying to find a solution for this.

They know this is important. It’s important in order to communicate effectively with our customers and prospects. It’s important because if we want to talk to customers like human beings we have to all get on the same page. But, yes, it’s going to hurt. Why? One word: politics.

Both instances above point to the fundamental changes underfoot in agencies, and marketing in general. In the case of agency CMOs, it also points to the well documented weakness most agencies have when it comes to promoting their own brand. Interestingly, it’s a problem CCOs can help CMOs solve.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am now head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.