The Institute of Management Accountants is trying to bring more people into the accounting profession and get them to sign up for its Certified Management Accountant credential with a new campaign.
The campaign, which launched this month, was developed in partnership with The Gate | New York, an international advertising agency and marketing services company, for the sixth year in a row. It includes three TV commercials, as well as digital, social media, radio, and search engine marketing, and will play out globally. The commercials include humorous vignettes that can be seen on YouTube of the lengths that CEOs, managers and recruiters will go to in order to entice CMAs, including going up on a window washer scaffold, hovering over a cafeteria table, hanging from a door hook and emerging from a painting.
The ad campaign represents a bit of a reversal from last year, when the IMA took a more serious tone in its marketing to reflect the national mood, as many other organizations did around the pandemic (see story). Now the humor of earlier years, when the commercials featured robots and people getting CMA tattoos, has re-emerged. Nevertheless, it comes at a time when the accounting profession, like many other sectors, is having a hard time finding talented recruits to fill the pipeline. The IMA continued to attract new CMAs even during the pandemic.
“As the numbers go, we had a good year,” said IMA president and CEO Jeff Thomson. “From July 2020 through June 30, 2021, despite the challenges, we added about 30,000 new CMA candidates and we have a total of 76,000 candidates. We awarded our 100,000th CMA certification since the program’s inception nearly 50 years ago. Something like 13% of the CMAs certified were in the last fiscal year alone. By the numbers, we certainly had a strong year in the face of a pandemic, but generally there’s a mismatch between job openings and qualified talent throughout the consumer and the business value chain, in some professions more than others. Probably IT is the one that as a potential candidate for a position, you can probably name your price and your location and your terms. It’s all the more reason for us, as organizations across the supply chain and value chain struggle to fill these open roles, CMAs are obviously a trusted choice for these openings.”
In response, the IMA has been increasing its training of management accountants in technology-related skills like data analytics that are in greater demand. “In the more value-added type positions that can support risk and controls and scenario planning, we certainly hope that CMAs and management accountants will fill the void,” said Thomson. “I know the market is very complex, and there’s more and more uncertainty and disruption facing business. It seems like it magnifies by the day, whether it’s the pandemic or climate change or the result of natural disasters, dealing with new supply chains and keeping the balance sheet and working capital strong. The ad campaign is part of our commitment to create greater awareness and upskilling and competency building to keep our profession strong in the face of a lot of volatility and uncertainty.”
The change of tone in this year’s commercials goes back to the tone of the earlier campaigns. “Last year we pivoted to a more heartfelt tug at the heartstrings approach, but they were created just prior to the pandemic,” said Thomson. “This year we have more of a light-hearted tone, but we believe they’re relevant and realistic. We’re seeing a doubling and tripling of job postings that list the CMA as a preferred certification in LinkedIn, depending upon the region. We think the messaging, and having that balance this year, is the right approach, and we’re getting really good market reactions. We always complement this ‘air cover,’ or ‘halo effect,’ as we call it, of a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign with a ground game of on-the-ground volunteers and chapters and councils. We have something like 367 active chapters around the world, whether they be professional chapters or student chapters.”
The IMA has also been partnering with Becker and Wiley on CMA exam review and educational offerings. “We need to invest more and more in competency building,” said Thomson. “That includes corporations, with the tone at the top for the role of their CFO and their finance and accounting team in a holistic value creation way, but also all the way back to the educational pipeline, certainly undergraduate accounting being more interdisciplinary, and unsilo those silios because that’s what the real world is expecting. That’s the only way we’re going to win the enduring race for relevance.”