According to global executive search firm Spencer Stuart, America's chief marketing officers are becoming an increasingly vulnerable species with an average job lifespan of only 23.2 months

In 2004, reports the headhunter, the average job tenure for a chief marketing officer in a large company was a "sobering" 23.6 months; in 2005 this fell to 23.5 months; while in 2006 (to date) top marketers survived just 23.2 months.

Running a practised eye over the current corporate casualty list, the eyebrows of Spencer Stuart's CMO practice leader Greg Welch were raised: "The 23.6 we saw in year one [of the study], we thought that was going to be a fluke," he said. "This year we were a bit surprised to see it take a dip."

Apparently, there is no single obvious answer. Anecdotally, the insatiable short-term demands of Wall Street is one reason for the increasing demise of marketing standard-bearers on the bottom-line battlefield. But there is no concrete evidence to support this belief.

Another reason advanced by marketers is lack of access to ceos and other boardroom decision-makers. There is also the poaching factor. As Wall Street tightens the screw, so the ruthless poaching of marketing highfliers increases.

But one such high-flying cmo - Jeff Bell, who moved earlier this month from Chrysler Group to become corporate vp-global marketing of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business [WAMN: 07-Jun-06] - believes cmo's shortened lifespan is as likely due to the accelerating trend away from traditional marketing.

"The shorter tenure is in part a reflection of the change from failing traditional-marketing approaches to less-defined and more dynamic approaches," says Bell. "Clearly the skill set of CMOs is changing from 'TV, TV and more TV' to interactive media . . . As the world of marketing completes this transition, the tenure will stabilize."

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff