What I learned at the WFA Global Marketer Week 2022

From my perspective, there were three main themes;

  1. Creativity and inspiration vs technology and data
  2. The role of marketing in the sustainability challenge
  3. The metaverse – opportunities, threats. 

I’m going to focus on the first point but before that, let me cover some top-line thoughts on the other themes emerging from the WFA Global Marketer Week.

The role of marketing in the sustainability challenge

An impassioned debate was staged between opposing teams around the proposal that “Marketing today is incompatible with a sustainable future”.

Each team presented various statistics and case studies to amplify debate points.

It is irrelevant who ‘won’ this debate as surely no reasonable person could deny this is a subject worthy of debate. For me, that is the main point. Marketers today must do their part to ensure brand behavior is compatible with sustainability. But this can only happen if the C-suite, shareholders and stakeholders and the governments in which they operate, align with these goals.

The metaverse – opportunities & threats

The WFA Global Marketer Week audience was asked their level of understanding about the metaverse. Bearing in mind that they represent some of the leading marketers of the world it is perhaps worrying that many admitted to not fully understanding the concept.

One speaker reminded us what the very first technologies looked like when they were first introduced and claimed that in the future we would all look back on the metaverse as described today, with similar amusement.

What is clear though is that web 3.0 is here and companies are already capitalising on this vigorously with their initiatives. At the very least, marketers and agencies must make an effort to fully comprehend this phenomenon so they will know if, when and how best to exploit it.

Creativity and inspiration vs technology and data

The subject of declining creativity in our industry has been a constant red flag as long as I can remember. It always seems a challenge between ‘creativity’ and the next big thing. Once it was creativity vs media then creativity vs direct mail and so on.

With the dizzying evolution of technology in the marketing space, we now have to contend with technology platforms as the major threat to creativity.

Perhaps guided by John Wanamaker’s assertion that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted ….” we are, as with many businesses, now obsessed with KPI’s. Media fragmentation and accompanying technology platforms and tools allow us to pinpoint our audiences. This may have driven us down rabbit holes of wonder.

Sir John Hegarty argued that we must distinguish the information we get from tech with the imagination required to persuade consumers. He asked whether we are stalkers (hiding behind the numbers) or inspirers?

Have we become focussed on niche marketing just because we can, or because it is right? Have brand’s forgotten how to speak to everyone in their pursuit of so-called efficiency?

Hegarty argued that brands have become prioritised promotion at the expense of persuasion. They need to get back to their raw truth, then to broadcast their brand purpose while informing and entertaining their audience.

Creativity and the team dynamic

As a young account guy I was often reminded “if you aren’t shit-scared of an idea you’re presenting, you probably not presenting a great idea”.

Creating, selling and buying a truly imaginative idea requires courage at all stages of the process. At Aprais we have labelled this behaviour as ‘challenge’. It’s not limited to creative work. It encompasses a willingness to initiate and adopt change, to think out-of-the-box and to push back when things aren’t right. To challenge the status quo and not allowing conflict to go unaddressed.

Analysis of our extensive database of more than 24,000 client-agency evaluations reveals that over the 10 years from 2011 to 2021, the scores for challenge improved by the largest margin among the seven behaviours we track. This indicates that both agencies and clients want to see more challenging behaviour from each other.

Challenge, in a business context, requires courage. This is particularly difficult in cultures where a master-servant relationship with suppliers and subordinates, is a business normal.

If the marketing industry is to remain a desirable vocation that attracts and retains bright talent, it needs to demonstrate its imagination. That’s not just limited to creativity in the persuasive images we design and the words we write. It impacts just about every aspect of marketing.

Thanks WFA for an inspiring Global Marketer Week 2022.

Until next year!

Kim Walker is the Founder & Chairman of Aprais.

Check out the highlights in this quick video.