Meet Holger Wilcks, CEO of Dansk Annoncørforening
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I was born and raised in… Odense, which also was the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote “The Snow Queen”, “The Little Mermaid” and other Disney box office hits. No wonder then that I ended up in advertising, the modern-day land of fairy tales.
I graduated… from Copenhagen Business School. As part of my Master’s, I spent a semester at Monash University in Melbourne where I had a few classes with postgrads who all worked in advertising agencies.
To a poor student like me, their world of pitches, photoshoots and gin tonics seemed incredibly glamorous. I was convinced I’d found my place in life and managed to snatch a position as copywriter at Denmark’s hottest agency shortly after I graduated.
When I started in the advertising industry… my friends looked at me with pity and bemusement. After graduation they all got jobs at dot com start-ups with business models that mainly seemed to consist of Flash animations and the ability to swallow venture capital in great gulps.
To them, advertising as we know it was dead. No one cared about grand ideas or brand stories, unless they could be communicated in a 728 x 90 pixel format. Fast forward 20 years and we are still having the same conversation.
My proudest career achievements are… always my latest results. My colleagues and I are rebuilding The Danish Association of Advertisers. We have looked back at our roots and our reason to exist in the first place, and we now focus on that one unique and valuable mission on which advertisers can rely on, whether they know it or not: That someone, somewhere will represent their interests when new legislation is drawn up or when agencies and other partners evolve their business models.
By doing this we have succeeded in putting media transparency on top of the Danish ad industry’s agenda, and as a result of increased relevance we have experienced membership growth of 25% last year.
Our priorities for 2020 are… to represent Danish advertisers even better at a national and international level. We now have a seat in every Danish self-regulatory advertising body, and we will use this to push forward an agenda for pan-European advertising standards, so large Danish exporters, especially in the food & beverage industry, do not have to comply to 20+ different standards within the EU.
A very specific challenge in the marketing industry in my country is… a diagram with two simple lines. One shows the percentage of people who say that advertising annoys them, the other shows the percentage of those who say that they notice advertising. If the trend of the last decade continues, half of all Danes will be annoyed by advertising in the next three years and no one will really pay attention to it anymore.
If I could change one thing about the industry today, it would be… the short-term focus of many decision makers. Many can expertly optimise a marketing value chain within the timeline of a fiscal year, but few have the skill or inclination to look up from their dashboards and at their industry or marketing in general from a long-term strategic point of view. Many know what a PEST analysis is, but few understand that it can be influenced.
What most people don’t know about me is… I’m first and foremost a crummy race-car driver with a job in marketing. Since receiving my license five years ago, my entire life revolves around the seven or eight races I do a year. As Steve McQueen’s character says in “Le Mans”: the rest is just waiting.
One fun fact most people don’t know about my country… half of all Copenhageners use their bicycle to get back and forth from work or school. But Denmark is flat, so cycling is easy. For years the country’s highest point was thought to be Himmelbjerget which rises to a dizzying 146 metres above sea level. It literally means “sky mountain”.
This is part of a series of monthly interviews with heads of national advertiser associations in WFA membership.