Global issues with local solutions: Lessons from Global Marketer Week 2024

Artificial intelligence, sustainability and the seemingly impossible role of the CMO were topics on everyone’s lips at this year’s Global Marketer Week in Toronto last month.

Hosted by the World Federation of Advertisers, the event brought together more than 700 delegates from 40 countries, including ANZA Chief Executive Lindsay Mouat, who attended as the New Zealand delegate.

During his week in Canada, he heard some of the world’s most successful CMOs and a range of thought leaders debate and progress topics as diverse as the use and management of AI by brands, genuine cross-media measurement, and bridging the gap between policy and marketing functions.

Here are his key takeaways:

A renewed demand for growth in all areas: Engagement, purpose, sustainability, accessibility, responsible marketing. The challenge that provides means initiatives cannot be an end in themselves, they must fit the business growth agenda.

Take Mastercard and their drive to reduce emissions from advertising – by focusing on quality digital placement, they have not only reduced carbon emissions from their media buy, but improved media effectiveness and business performance – a virtuous circle. Or P&G’s focus on accessibility of advertising for all in Europe by ensuring its ads reach hearing and visually impaired audiences has provided engagement with a previously overlooked and growing proportion of the population, delivering growth in markets that were considered saturated.

AI was everywhere on the agenda, but the buzz comes with risks. As AI transforms the marketing industry at an unprecedented rate, brands have mounting concerns around the reputational and legal risks associated with generative AI use, notably around company confidentiality, copyright and IP, and privacy. A WFA study released in Toronto suggested that more than 50% of global brands are introducing policies restricting the use of generative AI in external-facing marketing creative. 

Moves to restrict GenAI in marketing creative also reflect the lack of transparency brands have around how the technology is being used on their behalf and efforts to take back control. While half of brands have third parties involved in their internal AI workstreams, as few as 8% have policies to guide partners’ use of AI and just 3% of brands are fully aware of how their partners use generative AI. Advertisers need to ensure that the use of AI is clearly set out in their media service contracts.

CMO – the impossible job? Some of the world’s leading CMOs, including Global Marketer of the Year, Asmita Dubey (L’Oreal) and Jane Wakely (PepsiCo), together with ‘Ritbot’, an AI generated version of marketing professor Mark Ritson, tackled this question.

Not surprisingly, the panellists disagreed with the premise but acknowledged CMOs need to address the negative narrative of external forces and win back the trust of CEOs/CFOs. CMOs don’t need to reinvent themselves, but they do need to ensure they fully understand their business and can effectively communicate in the language of the C-suite. We do that as the growth architects of the business, obsessed with the people we serve, searching for continuous reinvention not incrementalism.

The panel concluded that despite the challenges, the CMO’s role remains a brilliant job, where creativity meets strategy and where you can make a difference. As WFA President Stephan Loerke said at the close of the conference, “Marketers are optimists: we see opportunities where others see risks. The world would be a better place if there were to be more marketers.”

Green marketing has become green hushing. One in four global companies with a sustainability head no longer publicise their sustainability achievements ‘beyond the bare minimum’. They fear criticism. Much of this has been because brands have focused on their behaviour as citizens.

If we are to bridge the gap between consumer values and actions, we need to stop ego marketing and focus more on the consumer benefit. Help decision-makers make positive choices – serve your consumer, don’t serve yourself.

Bridging the gap between marketing & policy. A new working model, the “Framework for Positive Marketing Behaviours,” was launched in Toronto for WFA members and national associations such as ANZA. Designed to enable marketers to better manage risk and opportunity in a polarised world, its purpose is to bring the marketing and policy functions closer together and help CMOs develop their own policies regarding hot-button topics like sustainability, brand purpose, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), AI, data ethics and others.  

Cross-media measurement. Reach and frequency are back. The demand for deduplicated, single source data for advertising (rather than content) R&F has never been greater. Achieving that, in an advertiser-centric form, with the commitment of both platforms and local media has proven much, much more difficult than when the ambition for cross-media measurement began. But with the UK going on to beta test delivering exactly this using open-source Halo technology later this year – and the US not far behind them – this technology will soon become available in all markets. New Zealand needs to be in the group of fast-follower countries by putting in place the necessary building blocks to follow the results of the UK/US tests.

Advertiser issues have never been more global. We are not alone. The reality is that most of the challenges brands face at a local level are in fact global issues. From a scalable solution on the verge of delivering genuine cross-media measurement, focused on advertiser needs to responsible strategies for media selection and sustainability, Global Marketer Week, by bringing brands and national advertiser associations together, provides the opportunity to deliver a roadmap of global solutions to our biggest challenges that can be activated at a local level.

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