Contrast Hemispheres

Project management: a choreography for marketing transformation

In modern marketing, where specialties and multiple stakeholders intertwine, incorporating project management principles can unlock transformation, says Gonçalo dos Santos Rodrigues of WPP’s Wunderman Thompson

“Markets change faster than marketing” – a quote from Philip Kotler – has shifted to: marketing now outpaces its own rate of change. Amidst transformations crossing channels, data or technology, the broader view often escapes us – one that portrays marketing as a crucial management discipline.

Budget constraints and their allocation across diverse stakeholders, along with the growing demand for new capabilities to tackle ever-evolving channels and technologies, are exerting pressure on management choices.

Gartner's CMO spending survey reveals a change: marketing budgets declined from 11.2% of companies’ revenues in 2018 to 9.1% in 2023. This change isn't solely about “doing more with less”, it signifies a shift as budgets chart new courses.

Investments now diverge over different teams: IT takes a slice for martech stack decisions, digital transformation embraces channels traditionally under marketing's scope, and data teams back consumer insights. While budgets tightened, the diversity in advertising avenues expanded. In the early 2000s, traditional mediums like TV, radio, or print dominated investments, but now, digital commands over two-thirds (three-quarters if including digital extensions of traditional media).

Martech's impact is also profound, turning marketing into a complex landscape of over 11,000 solutions from adtech to data management. Plus, the hype of AI anticipates a surge in technology integration's pace and complexity.

Fundamentally, marketing management is evolving into a tough problem, involving an expanding range of stakeholders and yielding amplified intricacy across capabilities, channels and technologies.

Thus, the C suite is prioritising budget control and pressuring marketing ROI. This spurs discussions on marketing transformation, sparking debates on centralisation versus decentralisation, in-house versus outsourced approaches, and integrated versus siloed strategies to streamline operations and boost efficiency.

The philosophy employed in managing marketing programmes, operations or campaigns exhibits a resemblance to the principles applied in project management.

With this escalating complexity, one can turn to one of the contemporary pillars of management – project management – which has evolved since the late 19th century to offer solutions for executing activities that involve diverse stakeholders and address challenges of varying complexity.

Essentially, this field encompasses portfolio, programme and project management: portfolio management ensures the right initiatives are chosen, while programme and project management ensure they're executed correctly.

Relatable disciplines seeking similar outcomes

Zooming in, a portfolio bundles projects, programmes and operations management to steer work toward strategic goals. Programmes coordinate related projects for amplified benefits and control, while projects entail temporary efforts to create outcomes.

How does this relate to marketing? Just like portfolio management, marketers aim for an overview of initiatives aligned with strategic goals. Marketing programmes and campaigns mirror the structure of projects.

Portfolio managers ensure strategic alignment and maximise returns. Programme and project managers target timely, budgeted, quality delivery and customer satisfaction – echoing marketers' goals.

With merging capabilities

Our analysis shows a merge of project management skills – like effective communication and resource management – with marketing roles and education.

LinkedIn's 2023 data supports this trend: management ranks second in relevance, communication is in the top five, and project management itself is among the top 10 in-demand skills for marketers.

In the WEF's Future of Jobs report, the “marketing and media” skill profile highlights “resource management and operations” as a core skill in marketing online courses, covered in about 60% of them.

Matching ways of working and methodologies

Agile emerged as a pivotal term in project management in the past decade, and in recent years, “agile marketing” has become commonplace among marketers. However, merely using buzzwords often misses the profound impact they have on work methodologies: not all projects originate in the same way, and the same applies to marketing endeavours and campaigns.

Choosing a methodology means understanding the work's nature. Factors like requirement definition, team types, stakeholder involvement, and release frequency influence method choice: sequential methods, such as waterfall, differ from iterative ones, like agile. Every situation is unique, and we don't advocate a one-size-fits-all application of methodologies to marketing endeavours.

Chart showing hero, hub and hygiene scale

However, consider hero and hygiene campaigns as illustrative examples: hero campaigns, intended for significant impact, might align with a waterfall approach. Meanwhile, agile methods relate to hygiene campaigns, designed to sustain continuous engagement with core audiences.

Enhancing marketing transformation from within

Drawing from recent collaborations with companies across geographies – spanning from Europe to Africa – and operating in varied organisational context (including global and localised setups across sectors such as retail, banking and NGOs) we have identified opportunities for enhancing project management methodologies to drive marketing transformation from within.

As we navigated the complexities of each organisation, a certainty has emerged. The fuse of project management into marketing transformation rests on a question that decision-makers must ask: “Do I envision project management as a skill or as a capability within marketing?”

Guided by this principle, we've formulated three distinct archetypes that can serve as a cornerstone for initiating discussions on the integration of project management into marketing practices.

Chart showing if project management as a skill and as a capability

Our analysis found that each model improved efficiency: shorter lead times, increased stakeholder engagement, streamlined processes and even elevated creative work.

Nonetheless, delving into project management as a capability revealed the next level of marketing transformation, involving managing shared resources, sharing best practices, delivering timely info, providing guidance and training, coordinating stakeholder communication, and boosting marketing ROI.

Despite often being seen as an administrative load, project management boosts untapped marketing transformation, foreseeing efficiency gains and streamlining opportunities.

As the marketing landscape evolves, its various specialties and stakeholders may discover their rhythm in the choreography of project management, step by step, towards transformation.

Gonçalo dos Santos Rodrigues

Wunderman Thompaon

published on

30 November 2023


Experience Communications

Related Topics

At the interface of humanity and machinery

More in Experience

White text reading 'AI-driven audio description' with WPP and Microsoft logos on a blue and purple background

Let’s add audio for visually impaired audiences

How to make advertising more accessible for visually impaired audiences

Path of flowers the colour of Peach Fuzz, Pantone Color of the Year 2024

The Future 100: wellbeing, humanity, emotion and tech

This annual trend spotter – by WPP’s VML – gives us the context for the new normal for marketing in 2024.

Red and turquoise graphic with footballs and icons

Activating sports events – the ultimate balancing act

WPP Sports Practice takes a look at the art of timing for sports event activation