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People-power in Portugal

The World Federation of Advertisers performs a critical role in the global marketing community. This year’s Global Marketer Week demonstrated its ability to bring people together to discuss the issues that matter.

It does this by allowing industry leaders and practitioners to leave brand rivalries at the door, share their pain points and best solutions in a remarkable spirit of openness.

The organisation’s focus on people was particularly powerful in Portugal as the industry’s senior global marketers spoke out on key issues needing action and resolution.

For me there were four key takeaways:

Diversity at the top: At a session on how marketers can ensure the marketing and communications they produce delivers a more positive impact on the world, Belinda Smith, Global Head of Media, Electronics Arts, put forward a powerful argument for diversity.

She highlighted two simple, direct actions that can influence a more realistic portrayal of society, influence public discourse and therefore build greater tolerance.

First, brands need to ensure they have diversity at a decision-maker level not simply across the general workforce. Second, they need to reflect the diversity of the real world in ad casting to remind and normalise in consumers’ minds what a rich mix of people, culture and ethnicities we live in.

People, not ‘consumers’: Geoff Seeley, Global Marketing Director of AirBnB, was one of several speakers who encouraged the marketing community to start talking about people, not consumers.  The use of the term ‘consumer’, he argued, creates a distance when marketers should be as close to their target audiences as possible, spending time with them and understanding their needs and drivers.  Keith Weed, outgoing Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Unilever, also called for marketers to spend valuable hands-on time with the users of their products.

Purpose and talent: Purpose was repeatedly referenced at the event and was seen as vital to ensure engagement with Millennial and GenZ audiences. However, Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Mastercard and the WFA’s Global Marketer of the year, cautioned that purpose and associated CSR initiatives must be authentic to the brand and have long-term commitment from the organisation. Syl Saller, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer of Diageo, highlighted the fact that purpose has also become an increasingly powerful factor in the recruitment and retention of talent.

Leadership goes beyond in-house: In an honest, transparent and ‘human’ interview, Saller described her leadership style and what had helped her team to turnaround multiple brands within the Diageo portfolio (silencing her inner critic was one piece of advice!).

Having a corporate purpose that aligned with her personal purpose allowed her to be exceptionally single-minded in her decision-making and leadership. Being demanding of Diageo’s agencies’ diversity statistics and following a recruitment policy that has driven increasing equality of gender representation within the business has also been key to attracting the broader talent needed to deliver business growth.

On a personal note, I was lucky enough to be asked to facilitate a discussion on Marketing Procurement during GMW19, looking at how procurement can change perceptions that it is solely savings-focused to a recognition that it can help create value. The solution – even for this specialised branch of the marketing community – was the same as described above; namely, needing clarity of purpose; diversity of talent and a preparedness to lead from the front.

It was also a rare (but hopefully increasingly frequent) delight to lead a discussion with an all-female panel of senior procurement professionals.

Lucinda Peniston-Baines, co-founder of The Observatory International 

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