Dear Tig,

I've been working in the marketing field for a little over two years, since I graduated college. What career track would you recommend to achieve my career goal of becoming a senior marketing executive?


Need Direction

Dear Needy,

Senior marketing executives generally come from one of three places: working their way up the agency ladder; working their way up the company ladder; or being related to the CEO.

The best option is the latter, if you can manage it. Failing that, you're stuck with ten years of hard work, after which you require more than a little luck to have your efforts rewarded.

The high-risk approach is to stick to one company and try to make your way to the top by sticking it through to the end. The problem with this strategy is that no marketing department at any one company remains very rational for a greatly extended period of time. Trends come and go, management philosophies shift and gear toward different types of staff.

A slightly better odds approach is to join an ad agency, giving you experience across multiple client types, which makes you a stronger marketer generally. You also get to witness the cavalcade of competence that is our marketing industry, viewing from box seats the pros and cons of working for different types of firms.

It's also a good view from which to see a good future senior marketing position opportunity from a distance.


Dear Tig, One of my students asked me if there were any rules of thumb for the percentage of turnover from which a marketing budget should spring. I fear this may prove a “how long is a piece of string?” question, but there may have been some research done at some time.

Thanks in advance,


Dear Prof,

There are a series of factors determining proper budget levels, many of them hinging on company revenues. These add up to some averages, but it quickly becomes apparent that each company faces relatively unique circumstances.

  • The degree to which there is competition in the marketplace will vastly affect marketing spending. You don't see monopolies, like local power companies in many districts, spending a great deal on marketing. If they do, it's usually PR marketing, trying to get people to be happier about the recent spate of nuclear pollution releases. 
  • Some types of products are purchased because they happen to be in certain places. You buy the milk you purchase because your local grocery store stocks it, not because you sought it out. You seek out a car dealer, however, because it sells Volkswagen Jettas. Milk companies spend much more money sending spiffs and other types of bribes to distributors than they waste money on advertising. 
  • Time sensitive businesses tend to spend much more on marketing. Movies, which are shown only for specific periods, seasonal businesses, events and sales and promotions-oriented businesses all spend disproportionately high on marketing. You get the picture.

All told, companies spend between 10 and 50 percent of their revenues on marketing, depending on these and many other variables and, importantly, precisely what you consider “marketing.”


Dear Tig,

How many media buyers does it take to screw in a light bulb?



Dear Jokester,

It depends.

The buyer offered three. The seller said it would take at least five. Nielsen said it took 3.6 last time. They agreed to make it four, but agreed to a contract with a discrepancy resolution clause pending the actuals.

(I've been waiting for months for someone to finally ask this.)

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Tig Tillinghast writes from the banks of the Elk River near Chesapeake City, Maryland. He consults with major brands and ad agency holding companies, helping marketing groups find the right resources for their needs. He is the author of The Tactical Guide to Online Marketing as well as several terrible fiction manuscripts.