The Secret Marketer

This week I was one of several speakers at an industry conference. Sadly this was not jolly sailing on the Aurora for the Marketing Forum, but a one-day special at a not-so Premier Inn.

Am I the only person who is staggered by how many people enrol and pay around a thousand pounds for these type of events and then can’t be bothered to turn up? I always find it telling that the delegate badges of those missing in action usually belong to staffers from big blue-chip FMCG companies.

In my experience, anybody who books from a small company always shows, aware that their very attendance is a significant commitment on the part of their employer. It is a sad fact that many marketers from big companies have lost touch with financial reality and think nothing of wasting their company’s money just because they are now too busy to attend.

Of course we could argue over the definition of “too busy”, but in my experience, it is usually a bail-out clause used by those who are only really busy trying to make themselves look busy.

I am sure this economic cycle will trigger an almighty wake-up call for many in our industry who have surfed a decade of carefree existence. Let us hope so anyway. If The Telegraph was to extend its current expenses expos beyond Westminster, I suspect that many in the marketing profession would rank right up alongside their Parliamentary peers when it comes to irresponsible use of shareholder money.

Our industry is quick to complain about its lack of representation in the boardroom, but I fear we will remain largely unelectable for as long as too many in our industry continue to position themselves as a grandiose cost centre.

The conference itself passed without major incident. It did, however, produce a masterclass of powerpoint trickery, far too many cups of stewed coffee, some painful breaktime networking sponsored by a random industry publication and a series of painful questions from the floor. Most of the questions were from one guy for whom the excitement of a roving microphone and the chance to say his name and company at least three times would have been better saved for Britain’s Got Talent.

I was delighted to escape back to the daylight and fresh air – once I made it past the dreaded conference feedback form. Perhaps next time I’ll follow the lead of my FMCG counterparts and adopt the too-busy-to-come strategy. Unless I run into anyone from The Telegraph before then, of course.

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