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Getting our priorities straight

What are the big issues for marketers in 2019? Rob Dreblow delves into the evolving worlds of media, procurement and integration.

/ Introduction

We regularly get asked: “what’s top of clients’ agendas right now?”. The answer is: “often not the sexy stuff!”.

The tendency amongst our members is to avoid being what our President, David Wheldon, CMO of RBS, would describe as being “the dog who barks at every passing car”.

With that in mind, here’s what’s up and what’s down amongst three of WFA’s biggest communities: our Media, Sourcing and Integration Forums.

Firstly, our Media Forum, a network for global media directors.


What’s up: ‘Audience and holistic channel measurement’.

Return on media investment (as always) took the top spot as the No. 1 area of attention. This year’s number two ‘prompted priority’ for global media directors was a focus on measurement. It’s not a new area which has rocketed up the ranking, we’ve been talking about media measurement since we were founded in 1953. At a time when the economic outlook is uncertain, accountability is bound to increase in focus. And there’s still so much room for improvement.

What’s down: ‘Contracting and transparency’

Five years ago, transparency and contracts were the No. 1 priority. They are now at number 7. That’s not to say media transparency has been ‘fixed’ but the feeling among our members (the world’s biggest brand owners) is that they, and their partners, are making progress. There is also a sense amongst many clients that they are tired of negative rhetoric around the issue: “Monetising fear” as one recently called it. Agencies need to help clients with greater transparency, but partners also share bigger goals. Effective marketing for one.

Secondly, our Sourcing Forum, a community of marketing procurement specialists.


What’s up: ‘Procurement metrics beyond cost savings’

Evolving sourcing beyond savings is the group’s No. 1 priority for 2019. One of our members, in New York, recently summed it up nicely by saying ‘we can no longer cut our way to growth’.  More marketing procurement teams are realising the ‘big wins’ have gone; that sourcing needs to evolve as a discipline by contributing value to stakeholders (in this case marketing) and help to deliver growth for their organisations. Not a new topic for some but a genuinely exciting area for procurement and marketing.

What’s down: ‘Agency remuneration’

This group’s No. 1 topic last year and for several years prior to that was “agency remuneration” but it’s now at number 12. It’s still in the top quartile, but there’s a real sense that priorities have shifted. In our recent remuneration study, 52% shared they feel they ‘focus too much on remuneration and that can have a detrimental impact on agency relationships’. So, a continued area of interest but, as with media transparency discussions, the sense is that there are bigger issues: overall marketing investment, for example. Or a shift of focus towards growth.

Finally, our Integration Forum, a group of senior global and regional marketing leaders whose task it is to pull everything together by channel and market.


What’s up: ‘Marketing capabilities’   

Marketing capabilities is the No. 4 priority this year, the first time it has made an appearance in the top five. What may not be apparent outside of the client community is how conscious brand owners are of their need to improve. This is an area of increased investment and we expect it to continue to be. As more tasks are in-housed, so the need to upskill has become ever more apparent.

What’s down: hard to tell

The answer here is “not much”. There are emerging areas that may not have scored as highly as you might imagine. What is striking with this forum, where other groups’ priorities lack a distinct curve, is that two key priorities stand out so much for our marketers: ‘marketing effectiveness’ (no surprises there) and ‘data-driven marketing’.

If I had to define a macro shift from our annual study of advertiser priorities, I’d say it were towards effectiveness over efficiency. The truth, however, is that priorities simply don’t change as much as many, including those barking dogs, would have us believe.

Source: WFA annual marketing priorities survey. December ’18/January ’19. Respondents: 181 from 93 of our over 100 member companies Word cloud shows top unprompted priorities listed for all respondents. Excludes ‘media’ and ‘marketing’.

Contact us

For more information or questions, please contact Robert Dreblow