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WFA Global Marketer of the Year partners, The Drum, on challenges facing today’s marketers

WFA has partnered with leading marketing publication, The Drum, for WFA Global Marketer of the Year 2018.

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APAC editor, Charlotte McEleny, and brands editor, Jen Faull, will both sit on the jury alongside senior marketers and industry leaders. We took the opportunity to ask them what they think the biggest challenges look like for today’s global marketers.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing marketing as a discipline right now?

Charlotte McEleny (CM): The biggest challenge facing marketing is talent, and talent specific to the rapid change of technological change. Only the best talent can dream up new ideas and business models that can cut through and create revenue, only the best talent will know what to do with new technology, can tie up online and offline marketing and manage supplier relationships, as fragmented and specialised as they get. There just isn’t enough talent to go round that can do all this, so in the meantime it’s about training people up and for marketers to work honestly with CEOs and the board, to create a long term plan around this, as well as working out how to plug the gaps in the short term.

Jennifer Faull (JF): Talent and transparency. OK, that’s two but they are very much linked. Stories of dubious practices continue to plague the industry and have now grabbed the attention of the rest of the C-suite. But one CMO can’t possibly manage the intricacies of every fraction of a media supply chain. They need transparency from their partners, yes, but more than ever they need to be armed with the right people internally.

Q: What’s the one unspoken question that marketers and their agency partners need to ask themselves?

CM: What are we doing to improve the business and the service it gives to customers? Both brands and agencies, or other types of partners, are creating a level of mistrust in each other, it isn’t one-sided. If this relationship gets back to the basics and delivers on the question above, trust will return and CMOs can look the board square in the eye and justify reinvesting in the partnership in the long term.

JF: Who are we representing and does our work reflect those people? A recent study, UK-focused, found that a large swathe of people (56%) who live outside of the capital feel the way they are portrayed is inaccurate and that brands, by-and-large, “didn’t understand them.” A scary statistic and one I’m sure would be mirrored around the world. Marketers and their agencies should be questioning at every turn if they are really representing their customers.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring regional and global marketer that would ease the transition from a single market role?

CM: To quote Game of Thrones: you know nothing Jon Snow. I’ve been in Asia Pacific for nearly three years now after only being in London (and I say London because even Londoners forget there’s life outside the city). Nuance and relevance is so important to marketers. Yes, you want consistency in design, tone and the purpose the brand stands for, but local markets know how that should land. Never assume you know better, the world is a very excitingly diverse place and you will never understand everyone in it, you need partners who do.

JF: Trust your partners in local markets, bring them in to conversations early and speak to them often.

Q: What does being a more ‘people-centric’ organisation mean to you?

CM: I think for most brands it means two things… thinking about your customers and your employees first. Why are you doing anything? Why are you investing? Will it make customers more loyal? It ties back to my first answer too in that talent is the most important thing businesses have, even if they are very led by tech. I honestly thing this isn’t separate from making a good profit either, it’s about investing cleverly instead of cheaply and getting better return and value for staff and customers.

JF: It means thinking about your own people first and foremost. It seems to me that a brand’s biggest advocates are the ones sitting in the same office yet they’re often the first to be forgotten in the quest for growth. How do they feel about the company they work for? Are they happy? Do they feel inspired? Do they feel valued? Do they believe in the organisation’s purpose? If the answer is no, it’s likely that customers will feel the same way.

Q: What one piece of work/initiative (not from your company) have you most admired in the past two years?

CM: I would like to say a social good or purpose-led initiative here but I won’t because honestly the most impressive initiative I have seen is Alibaba’s 11.11 festival. There are now some questioning it’s longevity and value for brands that get involved as it is starting to dictate e-commerce strategies and pricing. However, the event is now huge, it was based around a Chinese celebration of Single’s Day and Alibaba has taken ownership across APAC, not just China. It’s become a highlight for anyone looking at what the next innovations in e-commerce will be and the gala event attracts SuperBowl-levels of celebrity input. The company made $25.3bn in sales across a couple of days, it’s so impressive.

JFUnilever’s decision to stamp out all gender stereotypes from its advertising. One of the biggest ad spenders in the world demanding that creatives in its global agencies are smarter than stereotypes was a long-overdue move.

Nominations for the WFA’s Global Marketer of the Year can be sent to or uploaded to the awards website at

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