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5 WFA marketing predictions for 2019

WFA share five issues that might rise up the global marketer agenda in 2019

/ Introduction

Mark Ritson will (in his inimitable style) warn you not to be seduced “by the pornography of change”. The fact that media transparency was a founding tenet of WFA way back in 1953 and remains one of our members’ highest priorities today proves he has a point. But even though some industry commentators exaggerate its pace (how long did we have to endure the year of the mobile prognosis?), some change is inevitable. Here’s what we at WFA think might rise up the global marketer agenda in 2019.

Ageism in advertising

WFA, in concert with UN Women and many of our members have started out trying to tackle the problem of regressive gender portrayals and the lack of diversity in our industry. Our industry is seeking what Coty’s Ukonwa Ojo described as “diversity in front of the camera as well as behind it”. Yet there has been far less focus on age even though (to quote Bob Hoffman) “over-50s comprise 42% of adults in the US, [yet] they comprise only 6% of agency employees.” With ageing populations, this seems to us to be an area which needs prioritising. Marc Pritchard told us “of course we should have equality between women and men, but that needs to be intersectional and generational equality. It needs to include race. In needs to include LGBTQ. It needs to include people with disabilities. And it needs to include age.”

In-house backlash?

WFA’s research and our members’ experience around in-housing programmatic media and creative confirms that has been a stand-out trend last year. Recent news, however, suggests the mood has changed. Is the pendulum ready to swing back? Intel’s agency, who boasted AdAge’s ‘in-house agency of the year 2017’, was suddenly disbanded in 2018.  We have also heard stories from other WFA members who are re-considering their in-house media set-ups. This won’t be the end of in-house agencies; it’s not an either/or. Yet it’s possible to imagine that, in 2019, more advertisers will start to realise that they may have bitten off a bit more than they can chew. As David Wheldon, WFA’s President, has said “If we didn’t have external agencies, we would probably invent them”. In 2019, we might just all suffer a collective hypermnesia of the value of external partners.

Sourcing to find its voice?

Too long the oft-derided partner, marketing procurement has been described as the ‘awkward teenager.’ But is the function ready to mature and be seen to do so? We are witnessing multiple initiatives being independently developed by WFA members’ marketing procurement teams which suggest the beginning of a new trend. The more mature marketing sourcing organisations have realised that the big, quick wins have dried up. In a recent WFA study, 52% of marketing procurement colleagues said that they now feel they ‘focus too much on remuneration’. A growing number of sourcing colleagues see their future in adding value beyond savings. Not just as a business partner with shared objectives, but as a source for growth within their organisations. As one member in a recent WFA meeting in the US shared “we can no longer cut our way to growth”.

Beware the shiny and new

Our industry can often be found guilty of, to quote our President again, “being the dog that barks at every passing car”. Yes, many of us are seduced by the shiny and new – why wouldn’t we be? Most of us came into marketing to create things. We want to be at the cutting edge. To be innovators. However, without losing that potential spirit of entrepreneurialism, we suspect the supposed pace of change has left many wondering whether we are increased scrutiny is in order. This could manifest itself in many ways. Maybe marketers will become more sceptical of the rewards and risks of the shiny and new, particularly in the so-called breakthrough areas of blockchain, voice and influencer marketing.

Seeing the light with media transparency

We’ve already seen some signs that more advanced advertisers are making progress in relation to media transparency. Already in 2017, 14% of WFA members saw this as a declining priority. This could be down to clients becoming savvier, agencies becoming less opaque or industry action from those including ANA, ISBA and UDA having a material impact on our ecosystem. More likely a combination of all these things. Media transparency will never cease to be an issue. However, through scaling effective solutions developed at a local level, by increasing knowledge and understanding of what’s needed for a sustainable ecosystem, further progress can be made. In 2019 we expect the WFA’s Global Media Charter to evolve into high-level action to make even more of an impact in this area for clients, agencies and media owners/platforms.

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