CMOs Just Aren't That Social. Question Is, Why?

Editor's Note: This classic Social Media Insider first ran earlier this year.

There are plenty of things I’ve never understood about CMOs -- like why they’d take a job that seldom lasts that long-- but chief among those things I just don’t get is their often-willful ignorance about how people are actually using media.

It seemed to take years -- nay, decades -- for them to realize that network TV just isn’t what it used to be. Seriously. It’s only very recently that there’s been a dawning realization that maybe the network upfront isn’t where they should spend quite so much money -- not when so many of the consumers that used to be reached on broadcast are over on cable watching “Duck Dynasty” -- or worse yet, binge-viewing “Breaking Bad” on Netflix, avoiding all those damn ads.

And this Internet thing? I hear it’s going to be huge. While it’s true that 2013 was the first year that U.S. Internet advertising surpassed broadcast TV, the “b” word is the key qualifier there. Once you include cable advertising, digital vs. TV is still a rout; according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, total U.S. digital spending hit $42.8 billion in 2013. Total U.S. TV advertising was $75.4 billion. And this, despite the fact that per eMarketer, about half of the average consumer’s media time is now spent on digital, while only 30.5% of ad dollars are spent there.



C’mon, people! You shouldn’t need a metrics guru to tell you that people are spending more amounts of time on their devices than ever, and that when they are, they are likely to be far more engaged than they often are with their TV. But whatevs! Keep on buying those TV spots!

Which brings me to a report released this week by social data company Infegy, which lists what it says are the top 50 social CMOs, based on criteria like mentions, retweets, interactions, shares, and the like.

All I can say is: CMOs, I’m not impressed.

Here’s why: The list is primarily made up of brands that are either niche or technology-focused, which is strange when you consider the reach a major brand CMO could have just for showing up. This is not to take away at all from, for instance, John Foley of Grow Socially (#15), or Blair Christie of Cisco Systems (#24), and especially not Jacqueline Parkes of Major League Baseball, who wins the crown of Most Social CMO.

Only nine of the top 50 are in the Fortune 50. And it doesn’t get much better when you drill down further and look for other blue-chip brands. I spotted but a handful: Visa, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Dell, Target and SAP.

Where is everybody? Busy tallying up GRPs? Perhaps that sounds snide, but I think the dearth of major brand CMOs on this list points to a larger problem: that most of them aren’t engaging on the platforms where their customers are. A more revealing study, of course, would be to take a list of the CMOs of the Fortune 100 and see how many are on the major social platforms, and measure how involved they are in them, but even Infegy’s quick snapshot demonstrates CMOs’ hesitance to truly engage with where the world is headed.

To an extent, you could say that CMOs are getting social better than they used to. The headline of the eMarketer study I referenced above is that 10% of all digital ad dollars are spent on Facebook. But just as it is with continued overspending on TV, spending that much on Facebook over-indexes. All told, people spend twice as much time on all other social platforms combined than they do just on Facebook (12% of time vs. 6%), but those other platforms only receive 4% of digital ad budgets.

Of course, media dollars tend to lag media adoption; it’s foolish to think that media consumption and ad spend will ever totally be in sync with one another. But if there’s one thing you can point to which explains the constant lag, it’s CMOs who aren’t keeping up with the rest of us.

5 comments about "CMOs Just Aren't That Social. Question Is, Why?".
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  1. Brad Fredricks from Subsystemm, December 7, 2014 at 11:20 p.m.

    They have jobs you dumbass!

    People who work don't waste their one on social media.

    Content producers, be it brands, people, moronic writers such as yourself, etc. those are the people that do social. I can't even believe you bothered not thinking before you even hit the power button. Fuck you and everyone else who writes dumb shit about marketing.


    I personally cannot wait until low brow bullshiit like this is forever gone from this lovely world destroyed by thr relentless consumption promoted by those selling shit just to sell shy.

    I stand by my words, and I am Brad Fredricks.

  2. Brad Fredricks from Subsystemm, December 7, 2014 at 11:21 p.m.

    PS. Sorry for my typos. All thumbs on this iPhone.

  3. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, December 8, 2014 at 5:03 p.m.

    You do need to recognize that social isn't generally a highly effective medium..l certainly no power to create marketing impact to compare with radio, TV or other more effective mediums. We must, as marketers , learn to distinguish between "people spend a lot of time there" and "you can reach them there in a way that drives profit."

  4. Adam Hartung from spark partners, December 11, 2014 at 9:31 a.m.

    Thanks for re-running this column. Unfortunately too often leaders diminish trends simply because they don't participate. The world is changing around them, but they fail to accept these changes as they continue to do what they've always done. Forbes points out that when CMOs don't understand social media - especially as a user - they fail to recognize how they should properly spend their advertising dollars

  5. Bruno Gebarski from VIsion 2021, December 11, 2014 at 3:17 p.m.

    Thank you for the ad statistics TV vis-à-vis Social Networks. Most CMOs and other CxOs are so involved in their day to day jobs that they do not have the time to realize they are sinking! That's why you've got big companies disappearing because of being busy and not willing to face up to reality! Thank you for shaking up the CMOs' world with this message: I'm in sales and it's almost more disturbing to work with marketing than production. Too many marketers have no clue about their customers and their expectations! So why would they bother listening to what is going on? When I point out to CMOs that they should take a day off and study the website! they think I'm crazy! Like I wrote not too long ago: "While CxOs are busy extinguishing the daily fires of their "responsibilities and priorities" they forget their two main responsibilities: 1. Strategy 2. writing.

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