The conflict between accountability and effectiveness

Les Binet and Peter Field

Accountability sounds good doesn't it? You require people to measure the value of their actions, and you incentivise them to ensure that they meet pre-defined targets. Occasional raising of the bar drives continuous improvement, and the business prospers. The trouble with applying 'accountability' to marketing is that the evaluation is widely flawed, the targets are usually the wrong ones and the result too often leads to the destruction of shareholder value. Those are the most worrying conclusions of our meta-analysis of 880 national case studies from constitute the IPA dataBANK.

We are not against accountability (in fact we are all for it, since we both earn our livings from it), but if accountability systems (such as value-based remuneration schemes) are to promote business success, then they must be based on the right targets and metrics. This they often currently are not. This article outlines some of the problems, and suggests some possible solutions that enlightened marketers are already beginning to profit from.