tortoise hare

Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman and CEO OgilvyOne Worldwide is a guy who talks to a lot of CMOs. And insofar as digital marketing is concerned, he’s not impressed with their either their knowledge or skill-set.

“Marketers lag behind consumers in digital adoption,” he told an audience at Search Engine Strategies, speaking at a session devoted to selling search to the C-suite. “Your average 12 year-old has a better-integrated performance dashboard than a CMO,”  he pointed out, illustrating his point with a World of Warcraft screenshot.

Mobile’s on your average CMO’s radar, but only because, according to Fetherstonhaugh, they’ve personally invested in an iPhone during the last 180 days or so. And search? It occupies 1.5 percent of your average CMO’s mindshare.

The CMO Council‘s Liz Miller called the CMO’s job “the most complex function that exists in business,” and digital marketing channels are making it more so every day. “The CMO gets blamed for what the CEO didn’t stop him from spending on,” she added.

Perhaps that’s why a CMO Serengeti Communications‘ Nan Dawkins worked with recently couldn’t account for a single penny of the allocation of his $50 million digital spend. What portion of the $50M was allocated to search? To banners? To lead-gen? The guy holding the pursestrings just shook his head.

Meanwhile, sessions on social media here in San Jose are packed — and they’re packed primarily with small business owners and marketers. People who are trying to market smart…and cheap. People deep-diving into digital channels not only because of the bang for the buck, but because in recessionary times there are no bucks.

And the CMOs have yet to catch up with the curve.

It’s a situation that puts me in mind of living in Berlin when the Wall fell. The gulf in knowledge, education, experience, and work methods between the “Ossies” and the “Wessies” was so deep and vast, only a generational shift could breach it.

This digital divide has the potential to be a great leveler of the marketing playing field. Smart, savvy and nimble small companies will seize the day. It’s not going to last forever, you know.