CMO to have more spend power? Don't make me weep

Marketing and PR often measures useless things. Can you imagine the train wreck if they get control of large pieces of IT budgets?

I am no fan of "plumber"-style IT departments, but g-d help us if the CMO gets control of large chunks of IT spend. Let me explain.

Traditionally, marketing departments have been largely unaccountable in terms I understand. They run projects, campaigns and the like, the success of which is often measured in useless terms like "Our NFL ad spot was tweeted a gazzilion times--result," or "We sent out a ton of press releases and Howlett did a really great write up, we got a great spot in the FT and the WSJ. Awesome work." You get the picture.

That may well change as marketing supremos grab more IT resource and with it, greater pressure to facilitate revenue growth. However, there is plenty to get straightened out before they start wasting more money.

For example, I hear marketers salivating over the potential to mine social graphs. I hear other marketers drooling at the possibility of getting their colleagues to mine data with (name your vendor here) tools. But in advance of being able to do anything remotely useful, marketers and their bastard half-child PR, continue to rely on databases for spamming distributing information to anyone they think will be remotely interested in whatever they are flogging. It is the bane of mine and most other technology commenters' lives.

You have an active website? You address topics that comment about named goods and services on a regular basis? I guarantee you'll end up getting a flood of unsolicited email that goes something like:

Dear (first name inserted by robot)

I hope you are well.

We (or our client), the biggest, baddest provider of (robot inserts product/service name here), would love to gauge your interest in speaking to our (robot inserts name of marketing droid here) to discuss your interest in....

...and on it goes.

In case you are wondering what's happening, an agency somewhere along the line has picked up who you are, found your email address, added it to a database, and sold that data to as many people as possible. It doesn't care whether you wish to receive information. It is simply selling names.

The PR or marketing organization doesn't care who you are, as long as they can say in all honesty that they sent "X" thousand emails that produced "Y" result. If they are really, really fortunate, they'll get a 0.5 percent response rate, often less. But that can be enough to justify the investment in acting as a ramrod with which to invade your or my privacy. What does it matter if it annoys a lot of people along the way?

To make matters worse, some agencies pretend that they don't sell that information when that statement is patently untrue. But then, heh, this is PR and marketing we're talking about. Who said truth has any real place when it comes to execution? Even worse than that, some agencies may deny that you exist on their databases or that the person sending you crap is using an old list. Such was the case today.

I'll not name and shame (but you should have little trouble finding out who I mean), because the matter was finally resolved. The agency concerned, while adamant I was not on their database, had to admit to that being the case when I was able to produce a copy record from one of their clients. The client told me they were using what they believe to be an up to date record. My guess is that, like so much I see in marketing related activity, they are so used to BS, why bother actually checking the facts?

On this occasion, I was fortunate that the agency's client was happy to assist. I was equally fortunate to find an agency so stupid that it was worth pursuing. I suspect they are far from being an outlier.

My point: if marketing in whatever form doesn't understand the basics of databases, has precious few processes in place to manage problem resolution, and is getting me to do most of the detective work around their systems, then can you imagine the train wreck coming? If the CMOs office gets the kind of power which they currently covet, and which the likes of Gartner is perfectly happy to continue fuelling, it will be an unmitigated disaster.

In the meantime, I see an increasingly depressing trend where people like me find their email inboxes stuffed full of garbage that has little or anything to do with the topics in which we are interested, is 95 percent unsolicited, i.e., spam, and which sucks productivity out of my day.

In an age where we are told that our social graphs provide enough information with which to target with laser precision, has someone not thought about the current state of affairs and what needs doing to address this egregious condition? I think not. And then people wonder why I get so angry about the BS around social enterprise--go figure.