In a recent keynote, Ogilvy’s Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland harkened back to a popular quote from his agency’s namesake, likening the overreliance on data to the way “a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”

Then, Rory rephrased: “It’s ass covering disguised as rigor.”

And companies are seemingly willing to spend considerably more for CYA than activities that could deliver ROI. Consider Gartner’s latest CMO Spend Report, which shows that CMOs spend more than 26% of their marketing budgets on martech, the largest proportion of their budgets.

What’s more, despite many marketers reducing budgets and program spend due to COVID-19, 68% of respondents still expect their martech investments to increase in the next fiscal year.

Source: Gartner 2020 CMO Spend Survey

Maybe that’d be fine, if we ultimately got more back from that investment. But, according to Gartner’s 2019 Marketing Technology Survey, marketers in North America and the U.K. report using only 58% of their martech stack’s capabilities.

It’s an illusion that we value marketing’s effectiveness. We say, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” But, I’d ask, “how can you manage or measure what you don’t even make?”

The inertia of marketing measurability and accountability has become more than stifling, it’s often smothering. Marketing teams spinning wheels justifying…and re-justifying…and justifying again for budgets and to get initiatives greenlit. Second guessing coming from all corners. Continually being boxed into making the most from the least, and then blamed if results are incremental, at best.

As a result, too many marketers tragically spend more time talking about doing their jobs than actually doing them. Servants indentured to the almighty cult of data, with the gurus continually lurking in the shadows over their shoulders, wielding far too many sticks and offering too few carrots.

I want to be clear: my intention isn’t to rail against the value of data and maretch. I love them. At Retina, we really love them. And we enable our clients to put them to effective use.

Being data-driven, intelligent and automated is essential to creating better customer experiences and delivering on marketing’s mandate for a business. But an over-intensified, almost-crippling focus on near-term gains and martech box-checking can’t be the way forward. Not for marketers. Not for our partners in the C-Suite.

We need to connect the technology and the accountability to bigger strategic and creative thinking.

We can’t allow accountability to be the enemy of action.

Michael Ruby

Chief Creative Officer, Retina

As Chief Creative Officer, Michael Ruby spearheads brand strategy, creative and content for Retina’s global client roster. Over his nearly 20-year career, he’s positioned and activated brands for organizations such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, Boeing, ADP, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Merck, Korn Ferry, Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and Citrix Online, as well as growth-stage companies that have since been acquired by the likes of IBM, HP Enterprise, and UnitedHealth Group. Named among the 2018 DMN 40under40, Michael has received top honors in global advertising and B2B marketing, including Best of Show at the ANA Business Marketing B2 Awards, Best Integrated Campaign at the Global ACE Awards several times, Webby Awards, Design Week Awards, CMI Content Marketing Awards, FCS Portfolio Awards, multiple awards from The Drum, and perhaps his favorite, “Best use of the word ‘boo-yah’ in a b-to-b ad ever,” according to Ad Age.

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