What CMO tenure means for new media planning opportunities

Unilever's Keith Weed lasted longer than most CMOs, but what happens next?

When a chief marketer reaches the three-year mark, it's time for agencies to get their house in order.

A study from Winmo of over 2,400 data points found the average tenure for CMOs is 43 months, and the median tenure is 33 months.

Jennifer Groese, vice president of marketing for List Partners, said agencies and media sellers should be keenly aware of the CMO lifecycle. List Partners houses the Winmo brand.

"If a media seller is targeting a CMO, knowing on average when they're likely going to be rotating up or out of that position would give them an indication or a trigger of when a new opportunity would become available.

"And for agencies too, when a CMO hits their tenure mark and they rotate up or out, then a new CMO is going to come into that position, which would be a great pitch opportunity for an agency to win that new piece of business. We find that incoming CMOs typically shake up their AOR roster," said Groese.

Last year's study from Winmo showed CMOs are tenured for an average of 37.5 months and a median of 27 months. Groese said that's partially due to the evolving role of the CMO.

"CMOs are touching more areas of the business than they did before. They're responsible for growth, they're responsible for the entire digital strategy, and I think it's harder to remove those people. They touch a lot of areas of the business," said Groese.

For example, Keith Weed held the CMO title at Unilever since 2010, and in the past few years he had been focusing on cleaning up the company's digital supply chain.

More traditional industries, like financial services, tend to hold onto CMOs for 17% longer than the median. Chief marketers in newer business segments tend to last 27% shorter than the median.

According to the study from Winmo, 42% of tenure-tracked CMOs are women, considerably higher than other C-suite positions. Only 12% of chief financial officers are women, 9% of chief information officers are women, and 4% of chief executives are women.

Still, average CMO tenure for women is shorter than it is for men. Women typically last 37.5 months in the position.

Digital business providers, defined in the study as online-only businesses, represent the most equal gender parity across the top five analyzed categories. The other industries are consumer goods, retail, restaurants and financial services.

Groese credits the comparative equality within the digital business provider industry to the sector's modern business approaches and tendency to hire millennials.

Overall, CMOs spend less time in their roles than CEOs. Chief executives tend to stick around for 7.2 years

"CEOs are looking for [CMOs] to be the silver bullet. They're looking for them to come in and turn around disappointing sales or emerge into new markets. That role is looked at with a much higher frequency of proving ROI and having to turn around results," said Groese.

Chief marketers face pressure to deliver immediately, but according to GroupM North America CEO Tim Castree, there are no silver bullets in the advertising world.

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