WFA conference: How marketers can avoid killing advertising

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Tony Femandes.
Tony Femandes.

Speakers preached continuity as well as innovation at the event in Malaysia's capital

KUALA LUMPUR — The message at the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) conference here today could not be more clear: Marketers need to embrace and lead change if advertising is to survive.

In many ways, the concluding speech at the global marketer conference, organized by the WFA as part of Global Marketer Week, summed up the motivations behind the points speakers strove to make throughout the day. David Wheldon, CMO of RBS and president of the WFA, highlighted seven very dumb ways the industry could wind up topping itself (yes, he did start with the ad):

  1. Believing the definition of marketing has changed
  2. Being less than 100 percent customer obsessed
  3. Being "either/or" (it should be "and + and")
  4. Being on target and completely missing the point — particularly with regard to procurement and finance
  5. Focusing on the what and how — but forgetting the why
  6. Believing the magic answer to everything is branded content
  7. Suicide by overdose — overzealous targeting or shouting harder to gain share of voice

Brands must empower talent
In the opening keynote address, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes emphasised that the success of the empire he’s built has rested on the trust he has placed in his people.

"Give people in your organisation a chance and allow them to climb," he exhorted. "My one strength is to find talent and push them to places they never thought they’d go."

When it comes to marketing, brands need to realise that it’s too important a department to allow it to be taken over by finance people and shareholders, Fernandes said. "Stand strong, believe in your product and fight the case. Be a bit risky and don’t be afraid to fail."

Stop measuring your campaigns every week
The industry has got to stop demanding instant results and short-term gains, said John Kearon, CEO of BrainJuicer. "Famous ads seduce, and they work long-term. Half of all market research in the world is spent on tracking. I don’t know why. It’s dead from the neck up."

Earlier, Fernandes too pointed out that brands are built over the course of years, not weeks. "When we invested in Manchester United, shareholders asked, does that get us more sales?" he related. "It doesn’t. It takes years to build a brand. You have to push your brand forward, fight the system, and build your brand."

Innovation is best achieved through accelerators
From experience, R/GA has found that the best means of building new innovation into a brand is through accelerators or incubators, said James Temple, SVP, managing director and ECD at R/GA London.

Using consultants, he said, is a costly and time intensive enterprise that won’t necessarily lead to an actionable output.

Labs are hard to integrate into the rest of the business. Hackathons lead to a burst of activity that seldom leads to long-term results. However, incubators and accellerators that foster startups developing technology that dovetails with the brand seem to be working, said Temple, pointing to RGA’s own accelerator program.  

Stop talking about change and just do it
"Are we still talking about change?" asked Maria Mujica, global leader of Mondelez International’s Fly Fearless initiative. "We’re wasting time. Change is the new normal, it's just getting faster."

Marketers have got to get used to discomfort, said Mujica, because it is through discomfort that the best work gets done.

"Fly Fearless" is Mondelez’ client-led approach to harnessing the power of collaboration by creating a physical and mental space for it. This has resulted in a series of experiments that have resulted in innovative breakthrough campaigns for the brand and a new way of working with agencies.

"This model brings together planners, a brand champion and a creative partner into a team. It compresses how we work and brings agitators and new talent into the team."

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