First of all, in the interest of transparency, I measure events and communications for a living and some of my closest friends organize these events. Secondly, I firmly believe that corporate events can have a positive impact on the bottom line. So, I'm puzzled when I hear angry Senators, Congressmen, media and US citizens express their outrage at Bank of America's Superbowl spree, Wells Fargo's planned junket to Las Vegas, AIG's boondoggles and other excesses.
Any of us who are in marketing know that there is some justification for taking sales people and customers off site for an intimate sales pitch. Anyone who's managed an internal communications program knows that staff offsites are great bond-builders and generators of fresh thinking. So why aren't they saying that for every $1 spent on events, they generated $xxx in sales or that they saved $xx in expenses. My guess is that it's because no one's measuring the ROI of any of this stuff.
For years everyone has either not calculated the returns from these events or measured the wrong thing - -counting eyeballs or attendance rather than revenue. Every banker currently being called on the carpet for wasting taxpayer dollars should have had hard numbers to fling back in the faces of their questioners. Instead they are issuing vapid, defensive press releases, they should be able to cite specific returns, and if they say they can't do that, I know a bunch of measurement experts who can tell them how.
Which brings me to my latest memo to Obama. Why not extend the accountability you espouse for your administration to the organizations you are bailing out. If you spend TARP money on marketing, you should have to report ROI just like any other financial details. If not you are tacitly conceding that marketing is a waste of effort.