The world keeps throwing up new challenges, but marketers show that collaboration can be a powerful solution to even the toughest problems. WFA CEO Stephan Loerke shares his review of 2023.
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After the pandemic, we thought we’d seen it all – but we clearly hadn’t. Run-away inflation, geopolitical tensions, wars in Europe and the Middle East, ... The world in 2023 seems to be jumping from one crisis to the next.
The shock waves are reverberating across society. Not surprisingly, people’s attitudes are polarizing, and countries are increasingly tempted to decouple from a global trade system that has been a key driver of economic growth and poverty reduction in last few decades.
Yet, if anything, the challenges we’re facing require more, not less, collaboration. Whether it’s fighting climate change, promoting diversity and inclusion or, to be more industry specific, creating a framework for a responsible use of GenAI in marketing and building a future-proof cross-media measurement system. We need to bring together the world’s best to find solutions and drive change. And we need to do it at pace and on a scale that we’ve never seen before.
Fortunately, that’s exactly what WFA does. Since our inception in 1953, we have connected people and countries by building bridges. We bring together the smartest marketing talents from around the world to share experience and best practice. We drive collaboration across categories and across geographies to address our common industry challenges.
Despite a very tough environment, 2023 has been one of the most successful years for us. A year where the power of collaboration has yielded very tangible results:
- WFA’s Halo programme to reshape the way media is measured and create a future-facing cross-media measurement is starting to bear fruit with both the UK and US pilot projects taking decisive steps towards their operational launch.
- Our Global Media Charter 2023 has created a new rallying cry for the industry. An advertiser-led roadmap that addresses serious, complex and seemingly intractable issues, which will require collaboration and input from all corners of the industry.
- GARM Brand Safety has played a more important role than ever in a year marked by the Ukraine war and the Gaza conflict. Its resources provide indispensable support for media leaders and brand-safety experts.
- On sustainability, GARM has worked in close coordination with Ad Net Zero to create a Global Media Carbon Emissions Framework – this will be released shortly and will be an indispensable tool enabling the ad industry to collectively drive down its carbon footprint in the coming years.
- Our Digital Government Exchange network (DGX) produced its first Data Ethics Playbook, which provides practical guidance to CMOs on how to foster an internal culture rooted in the ethical use of data. In the coming months we will build on this with a generative AI explainer to create a harmonised understanding of what GenAI is, and the risks for brands. We’ll also develop a voluntary GenAI vendor risk assessment framework to support brands evaluate the risks when working with GenAI tool providers.
This year, our Global Marketer Week took place in Istanbul. It was a symbolic setting to celebrate our 70th anniversary – the only city that spans two continents and has been the capital of three empires. We welcomed more than 1,000 delegates from 49 countries, focusing on one overarching theme: how the marketing function can be part of a sustainable future.
During Global Marketer Week in Istanbul, we celebrated our 70th anniversary together with more than 1,000 WFA delegates from 49 countries.
Marketing effectiveness has always sat at the centre of what we do and this year was no different. We saw the publication of some excellent work that will serve as the foundation for a renewed global culture of marketing effectiveness.
However, not all our stories are success stories, but shedding light on areas where the industry needs to improve is as important as celebrating the victories. The year saw the return of the Global DEI Census, with very similar results to the first wave from 2021. In two years the marketing industry has not moved the needle in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion. There is still a lot to be done to make the job that we love welcoming for everyone, no matter who they are.
In 2023, one in seven still say they would consider leaving their company and the industry on the basis of a lack of diversity and inclusion. For us this is a sign that more effort is needed and we’ll be working in finding ways to improve the lived experiences of everyone in the industry in the years to come.
Throughout the year we also trialled a new meeting format, WFA Forum Connect. It’s a new model combining the inspiration of a world-leading brand owner conference with the cutting-edge knowledge exchange that WFA members expect. The goal for Forum Connect is simple: to foster collaboration and bust silos across functions, categories and geographies, while also reducing travel requirements. The format has proved to be very successful and after Amsterdam at end of last year, we met in Singapore and in New York this year.
In 2023, marketers have responded enthusiastically to our services and our events, and they want more. That has helped us grow as an organization. We’re going to be ending the year with a record number of 153 corporate members.
We’re determined to continue to support and work with our members as they embrace the challenges of the future, whatever the world might throw at us in 2024 and beyond.
Our core belief that you are no longer alone when you join the WFA is becoming more relevant than ever.
Thank you for your support.