A Response to: Should the Ad Industry Have a Certification Process?

Adage.com’s Jaci Russo has penned a very well written blog concerned about a lack of certification and continuing education in the marketing and advertising industries. While she makes some valid points, and addresses realistic concerns, there are a few inconsistencies in her argument that lead us to a much different conclusion.

The theory she presents here essentially boils down to: If other professionals require certification, marketers should too. Later, her argument starts to imply that marketers will not be taken seriously as professionals until such a system exists. Jaci’s first flaw in judgment is linking disparate careers together under the category of Professional. She mentions that marketers, doctors, architects, and lawyers are all professionals, and thus should all be lumped together. Realistically, there is a much more obvious reason that doctors, lawyers, and architects require such extreme certification. All of them can have severe impacts on people’s lives. Doctors heal the sick, lawyers protect the innocent, and architects are responsible for designing buildings meant to survive earthquakes and fires without collapsing. Can you say the same thing about your marketing department?

We agree with Jaci in one significant principal – we want what is best for the industry. We don’t want to sell ourselves short. Marketers do great work, and the best in the game can do amazing things, but it is a bit naïve to compare our industry to life-saving medicine. Russo’s article suggests that an industry without certification has no regulation, and that nothing separates the greats from the dregs. A certification process will not change this. McDonald’s requires its employees to acquire certification, that doesn’t mean they never mess up a burger. Marketing is a self-regulating industry. The best performers, thinkers, and creatives end up at the top, and the remainders fall into the bottom. What good is a certification for competition, if everybody has one?

The marketing industry doesn’t need certification, or continuing education. Marketers that want to succeed will do the research and follow the trends on their own. We don’t need to go back to school to be that intelligent. A bad marketer is still going to be a bad marketer with or without a signed sheet of paper.


Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


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