The Sad Truth About Marketing Directors


Broadcast stations bring me into their markets to visit with their local direct clients. Recently I was working with a European broadcasting company. They had arranged back-to-back meetings with me and potential local direct clients. Most of those meetings turned out great. I was able to give local direct decision-makers long-term marketing and advertising strategies. They appreciated the advice and spent lots of money with the stations.

I said that “most” of the meetings turned out great. Two meetings in a row did not actually involve the decision-makers. Instead of showing up themselves, the decision-makers sent their buffer people, their marketing directors. Ouch. There goes two straight hours of wasted time. Why? Because 90 percent of the time meetings with marketing directors are a complete waste of time.

In most cases, marketing directors  have no power at all. They could never represent your idea to actual decision-makers with the same enthusiasm and knowledge that you could. They almost never have control over the budget. In fact, in most cases, they don’t even know what the budget is — or if they do, they have no idea how it was established to begin with.

I can’t tell you how many times the media salesperson arranges presentations with marketing directors, mistakenly believing that they are dealing with the ultimate decision-makers, eventually finding out that they were wrong.

It’s sad, really. Because our biggest asset is our time. And we’re wasting our time with people who actually have very little power to do anything at all, let alone make any real creative or budget decisions. Sometimes I’m wrong, but based on my experience I’m usually right.  

The two marketing directors I met with overseas were both hired by large real estate companies looking to sell condos. In both cases they were told to reach out to younger, professional people, but they were spending all of their money on print. The radio station in this case reached their demographic perfectly, not so much the newspaper. In both cases, the marketing directors agreed that the radio buy made perfect sense, and they absolutely loved the creative ideas we had come up with for them. But they were powerless to switch mediums because the developers they represented loved the newspaper and would never allow a budget for radio or television.

The situation is even sadder because, in so many cases, when the person was hired as “Marketing Director,” they were told that their job was to help their company or organization grow by bringing in fresh new ideas and to coordinate with media people to develop innovative campaigns. But most of the time their ideas immediately are nixed by the very people who hired them. “That’s not in our budget,” is a familiar answer to the marketing director. I ask how the company determines the budget. Many of the marketing directors aren’t even privy to that information.

I’ve been in meetings with marketing directors who literally started ranting about their bosses, one even crying when talking about her bleak future working for a group of doctors: “This is what I was told last week,” she said.  ‘We like the way we were doing it before you were hired.” Boy, wouldn’t that be enough to drive you to drink?

The question always is this: Can the marketing director sell your idea to their boss with the same level of enthusiasm, depth of knowledge, and skill that you could? The answer is usually no. That’s why so many great broadcast ideas die the minute they are delivered to the middle-man, the Director of Marketing.

When the salesperson tells me that the marketing director is the decision-maker I always remain hopeful, but in my experience the results are not usually fruitful. Your best bet is to convince the marketing director to invite you to pitch her and the actual decision-maker at the same time.


  1. Explains everything. Wish I’d known this 20 years ago when I was a frustrated marketing director. I thought it was me. Then I thought it was them. Then I got out of the business.


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