In a new year's address, WFA President David Wheldon has called on its members to invest in building lasting relationships.
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Every new year should provoke some reflection. In 2018, it seems to me that the marketing industry needs to invest in trying to building stronger relationships based on mutual trust. Much of the trust that is so fundamental to a good working relationship was undermined in 2017.
When WFA asked its members at the beginning of the year about the top five characteristics they would want to see in an agency roster of the future, the number one response was "agencies working as true business partners".
Clients have always referred to agencies as partners. But for this to truly become a reality, we need to see meaningful commitments on both sides built on transparency, openness, access and fair remuneration.
The same goes for our digital partners. 2017 will be remembered for the scandals of ad misplacement and the lid being fully removed at last on a sub-optimal online advertising ecosystem.
WFA has strategic partnerships with Google and Facebook among others and everyone needs to work hard to address ongoing concerns around transparency, viewability, brand safety and ad fraud.
My guess is that the biggest challenge for marketers this year will be the General Data Protection Regulation
In 2018, we will need a common action plan that allows us to make measurable incremental progress on all counts. WFA intends to provide a global framework for its members to use when addressing the key issues and a multi-local global strategy.
My guess is that the biggest challenge for marketers this year will be the General Data Protection Regulation. If 2017 was the year of digital media transparency then 2018 may well be the year of data transparency, and ensuring that all of our data is kept safe and secure.
GDPR will have far reaching consequences because it applies to companies based inside and outside the EU (if they target or collect data from consumers within it) and because the risks of non-compliance are so high, both from financial and reputational points of view.
It will likely end online data collection as we know it. Brands will have to deliver complete transparency and real perceived value if they are to be offered people’s personal data in return.
The winners will be brands that are good listeners, scrupulous with what they do with people’s data and offer innovative, creative and compelling reasons for people to choose to share their data with them.
People make a difference
The promise is the basis for a brand-consumer relationship based on greater mutual trust, which ultimately is to everyone’s benefit.
Finally, lest we forget, it’s people who make a difference. Individuals can inspire others to better business results, influence the way our industry operates for the better and use marketing as a force for good in society.
This year, WFA will crown its first-ever WFA Global Marketer of the Year from a shortlist of six people who have all built some fantastic brands and businesses and contributed greatly to our profession and to the world we live in.
All too often as marketers we can be damaged by the behaviour of the worst of our profession. In highlighting the impact that the best of our profession deliver globally, I hope that we will be able to demonstrate the positive role that marketers and marketing can play. We will celebrate these together at the WFA Global Marketer Week in Tokyo in May.
Strong relationships take time, differences need working through and trust doesn’t come overnight. But after all the well-documented difficulties of 2017, it strikes me that 2018 should be the year we get things back on track and invest in building more lasting relationships.
David Wheldon is the chief marketing officer at RBS Group and president of the World Federation of Advertisers
This article was originally published in Campaign.