CMO Tenure at Largest U.S. Advertisers Gets Even Shorter

Chief marketing officers are moving in and out of the role at a faster pace than any time in the past decade.

Last year, the average tenure of top marketers at the nation’s 100 largest advertisers was around 37 months, according to search and advisory firm Spencer Stuart. That’s down from 40 months in 2022.

The decline, however, isn’t necessarily a sign of poor performance, noted Richard Sanderson, who leads Spencer Stuart’s marketing, sales and communications practice in North America. In some cases, he noted, short stints are the result of marketers going on to bigger and better positions.

“We’re seeing chief marketing officers increasingly being put into more senior leadership roles, which is why I don’t equate low tenure with failure,” said Sanderson.

Around two-thirds of CMOs leave the job to take on bigger opportunities, he noted, either within their company or at another organization.

That said, things are more stable at Fortune 500 companies, where CMOs held onto their jobs an average of 50 months in 2023, much the same as 2022. This figure is just a touch lower than tenure across all Fortune 500 C-suite leaders, which sits at 55 months.

At the same time, top marketers at B2B Fortune 500 companies kept their spot longer than their peers working at B2C firms. Average tenure for the former group of CMOs is 54 months; the latter, 48 months.

Additional research from Spencer Stuart shows women now account for half of all Fortune 500 CMOs, up from 47% in 2022 and 44% in 2021.

As marketers take on more responsibilities to keep pace with changes in how people shop and consume media, the role is shifting. Only one-third of the top marketers at Fortune 500 companies hold the conventional chief marketing officer title, for example. Modern demands on the profession have also contributed to the rise to the fractional CMO.

As Sanderson put it to ADWEEK in March: “The marketing leadership role has become more complex than any other leadership role in the last 10 years.”


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