How the “agency” killed the Marketing Manager…


IR #080

I am a Marketing Manager and am led to believe that I am pretty good at my job. However, I feel that the position of a Marketing Manager has lost its meaning in the Middle East.

This article revolves around my experiences and understanding in the Middle East market, hence the term I coined – Middle East Marketing Manager Paradox or the MEMM Paradox.

The MEMM Paradox simply means – the condition in which the “agency” has become such a huge part of a Marketing Managers work place that the Marketing Manager does not realize that he is no longer a force to reckon with.

Now, what is the role of a Marketing Manager?

Let’s leave out the mumbo jumbo that companies and HR departments put down in an exhaustive document known as a Job Description. Let us get down to a basic 1 liner –

A Marketing Manager is the person who builds the story around the product/service, brings it into the market and makes customers WANT to buy/use the product/service.” Simple. Period.

Too Simple? Ok. Let’s break it down.

builds the story around the product/service – Determines the target market, overlooks the UI/UX, creates the brand identity, establishes brand guidelines etc.

brings it into the market – Launch strategy, distribution network, onboarding activations, P&L etc.

makes customers WANT to buy/use the product/service – advertising, campaigns, share of voice, communication strategy etc.

Makes more sense… Doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, Marketing Managers in the Middle East are now being reduced to basic paper pushers, approval getters and budget managers. Why is this so??


Simple – The agency killed the Marketing Manager


Agency Predator – PR/Digital/Advertising/”360Degree” Agencies

Every brand today takes pride in one unnerving aspect – the agency handling the brand. Marketing Managers today shout out with pride that X & Y or ABC Group handles their brand. I accept the fact that at most times, an outside look is important in getting a complete understanding of various aspects of a brand or product, but depending on the agency for everything is plain wrong.

The Marketing Manager today leaves all the thinking to the agency. The agency develops campaigns, interacts with the end users, determines the technology elements used, crafts the communication strategy, designs the look and feel, compiles reports, does the analysis and does everything that a Marketing Manager should be doing. The role of the Marketing Manager is limited to letting the agency know what budgets are allotted, getting approval from senior management, coordinating with Finance for PO and finally making the payment on completion.

When did we stop thinking or conceptualizing? Isn’t that what we were supposed to do in the first place???

Using an agency for execution is completely acceptable not the conceptualization. An agency is meant to make the life of a Marketing Manager easier, not a cakewalk.


Agency Predator – Recruitment/HR Agencies

How many of us has come across job vacancy advertisements for Marketing Managers that include phrases like this:

Need to be proficient in html, css, and any other programming language. (Web Developer)

Need to have knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. (Designer)

Have established contacts with potential client base. (Sales)

“Marketing” in its core sense is a skill that is learnt through trial and error. Some individuals have a natural talent for storytelling and connecting with their audience, however their marketing skills are honed through repeated practices in real time situations.

I agree that it is good to know basic elements of the above skill sets, but it is not a core skill set. However, today there are so many elements rolled into the role in the name of “Multi-Tasking” that the core essence and skill set is lost forever.

This gives rise to the modern day Marketing Manager who is used to “doing” and “understanding” things where we see web developers and paid media experts transforming into Digital Marketing Managers and so on.


Don’t get me wrong. The agency is NOT the villain here! The fault lies completely in the hands of the Marketing Manager. In the expedited process to make his/her life easier, the Marketing Manager stopped thinking. 

In fact, the agencies have done a great job capitalizing on the laid back attitude to expand their scope of work and to define the standard skill set of Marketing Managers. They adapted… We did not!

No wonder the Marketing team is the first one to go under the axe in times of financial hardship.


R.I.P – Marketing Manager. Killed by the very agency hired to make his/her job easier.



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