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The CMD Manifesto

Good advertising depends on accountability and results as much as on creativity, and we will shout it from the rooftops.

Why a manifesto?

Today’s advertising and marketing industry has lost its ability to sell.

In its place, marketeers have come to busy themselves with haughty notions of purpose, and come to think of themselves as knights in shining armour fighting for an ever-expanding selection of causes.

It’s the customers who pay for it all. And guess what—they’re beginning to notice.

Anyone in this business who takes their job seriously and doesn’t mind being held accountable for the results they produce is currently suffering because our industry as a whole isn’t taken seriously anymore.

We would like to change that.

Doing what works

We are writing this manifesto because as an agency, one of the biggest hurdles we face is dismissal by association.


Whether it is losing a pitch because we proposed to measure returns, which doesn’t sit well with the marketing manager, or getting dismissed by the CEO because they see us as untrustworthy simply because we’re an agency, we suffer under our industry’s lousy reputation with company executives, especially in the SME world.

And so we have decided to advocate a focus on results and reality rather than causes and entertainment framed in wishful thinking.

Let’s have a look at what this means in practice.

What we want to achieve

Anything a business does to attract attention to itself, its services, and to its products counts as advertising. And advertising’s only purpose is “to sell more, to more people, more often, at higher prices.”

We may not be quite as cynical as Coca Cola’s Sergio Zyman, but we do think selling should be at the core of it all. Everything else is a side show. There may be nice extras, but since without sales, you don’t have a business, they play second fiddle.

Marketing and advertising thus needs to be driven by the traits that make it perform.

This means that a good ad and a good campaign:

  • Is relevant

  • Doesn’t tell, spread, promote, or suggest lies or untruths

  • Always addresses an individual

  • Includes, or at least suggests, a clear offer

  • Asks for action

  • Takes actual as well as social context into account

​... and, above everything else, produces measurable financial results.

Advertising and marketing should always be held to these standards.

What the industry has come to

Because it is easier to commission and produce $250,000 worth of creative work than it is to commit to $250,000 worth of results, our industry has come to focus exclusively on creativity and purpose as the be-all and end-all of what we do.

In short, advertising and marketing are no longer out to sell: instead, they think their job is to entertain, advocate, and administrate. One cause chases the other, while the notion of advertising as a means to produce sales and actual tangible revenue is generally dismissed.

And they’re doing it all with their customers’ money as well as prospective revenue. In fact, they have been doing this for several decades at this point, making what used to be a casual failure in the advertising industry the actual mainstream.

In consequence, advertising has come to be seen as little more than expensive window dressing—


And CEOs are now discussing research, pricing, and strategy with their sales directors rather than putting up with their marketing people, who now find themselves reduced to quibbling over shades of orange in the company logo, running social media, and ordering business cards.

The Unholy Trinity

A lot of knowledge is lost this way, leading to missed opportunities, squandered budgets, and money lost to fraud—a trio we’ve come to call the Unholy Trinity.

Businesses miss opportunities to communicate, open up new markets, and sell to new target groups because they’re focused on putting an original idea into practice rather than modelling their marketing and advertising on the needs and wants of their audiences.

Expensive creative work usually goes one way only, since direct contact and any follow-up with the target audience are typically the responsibility of another company, department, group, and manager.

This means lost feedback as well as the loss of basic marketing practices, such as being able to build predictive models based on real-world data rather than fancy concepts conjured up in a conference room.

This lack of appreciation for reality, now built into the actual understanding of marketing and advertising as the industry knows and practices it, also means that budgets are squandered on channels and methods that don’t produce anywhere near satisfactory results.

Yet most companies never notice, since they don’t measure the impact of their campaigns on their revenue and bottom line anyway.

Finally, these two things combined—a lack of attention, paired with the readiness to spend money without practical verification—make businesses extremely vulnerable to fraud, both in terms of pointless but expensive activities as well as losses to outside contenders such as dubious ad platforms and bot networks.

While making advertising and marketing accountable would pair the price of campaigns and services with a clear idea of ROI—and turn an expense into an actual investment.

What we’re up against

According to Fournaise, 80% of CEOs don’t trust their CMOs.


Marketeers increasingly find themselves excluded from top-level decision-making. Which is no great surprise considering that in a survey for LinkedIn’s own Marketing Skills Handbook, a mere 37% of respondents expressed confidence in their ability to measure ROI.


The same survey found that just 51% of marketeers believed their campaigns were effective.

Reverse these statistics, and you get more than 60% of marketeers not confident to measure ROI, and almost half not believing their efforts are effective.

Ever heard that old joke, “I know half of our marketing works, but I don’t know which half?”

Now you can see where it comes from.

It gets better. A full 73% of the same cocksure contingent, interviewed for LinkedIn's Marketing Team of Tomorrow report, say they feel confident they have the skills they need to succeed in the future of our industry.

Pretty steep, we think, considering that they’re pitted against those 80% of CEOs mentioned earlier who have concluded that they are useless.

We know from experience that both advertising and marketing are measurable. More than that, we know that there is well over a century’s worth of experience in recorded advertising efforts—not to mention the enormous possibilities of today’s digital means to track, analyse, and improve our work in the present.

The general refusal to be held accountable has had dire consequences for agencies like ours, but also for business and industry on the whole.

On the way to a working definition

Marketing and advertising are an extension of salesmanship, tasked with the development and well-being of the company they work for, content with—and proud of!—being expert practitioners of commercial and not fine art.

Creativity matters and creativity can deliver—if it focuses on communication, if behind this communication is an offer that matters to the audience it addresses, and if that audience is carefully selected and researched.

Creativity is about more than sounding clever and making pretty shapes. It is emphatically not a masturbatory exercise, but in fact an exercise in competitive persuasion.


You don’t need it to make you feel good about yourself, but to communicate with, and attract, your current and future buyers.

That is what marketing and advertising are about, and that is why we want to produce work that gets actual results for our clients.

By definition, any agency owes it to its customers to offer every indicator necessary to make sure that the money they spend on advertising and marketing returns more money earned, making it an investment rather than a gamble.

The office we share with the Kai Culture Center in Tallinn.

We currently have customers in seven EU countries, and a regular presence in Tallinn, Vienna, and Zürich. Drop us a line to get a specific offer, or if you have questions or need advice. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Get in touch

Join the struggle!

If you agree with what you’ve just read, you belong to an increasingly rare breed of entrepreneur, creative, and marketeer.

There are opinion leaders out there—Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman and long-serving Cannes jury member Steve Harrison, to name just two—who have been vocal about the damage these developments are doing to our industry.

Let’s not leave them standing alone.

Vent your frustrations. We want to hear it from the people on the ground, from marketing officers, designers, copywriters, planners and, most of all, from businesses sick of the advertising and marketing industry's current wasteful practices.

Nail your colours to the mast. And next time you do, tag or mention us, and we’ll be there to have your back.

And if you’re looking for someone to help you navigate today’s general marketing mess, here’s what some of our customers have had to say about us—get in touch, a first strategy session is 100% free of charge.

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