WFA chief Stephan Loerke on brand safety, GDPR and what makes a top marketer today

Stephan Loerke, chief executive, WFA

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and The Drum have partnered to find the next Global Marketer of the Year. As the 30 September deadline for entries nears, The Drum caught up with WFA chief executive Stephan Loerke to find out what’s leading the global marketing agenda and what he believes makes a top marketer today.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing global marketers today?

People - the decreasing trust by people in digital marketing. It's the mother of all the challenges.

Just look at the way ad blocking is increasing across geographies. The other thing is that people aren't comfortable with the way their data is being collected and stored. For people to engage with a brand there needs to be a value exchange and brands not doing that will struggle to be compelling. These are the factors that are driving a gap in trust and where marketers should be focusing on getting better in the future.

One of the biggest issues the industry has grappled with is ad fraud and the “murky” media supply chain. The WFA has worked hard to draw attention and support marketers in this area - how would you say the industry has progressed in the last 18 months?

There's a sea change in terms of awareness among brand-owners. There is a growing determination to take back control of the ecosystem. We are already seeing structural change among some leading brand owners with some strategic issues such as brand safety being escalated to the C-suite. National associations at a local level, such as in the UK, France, Australia, play a very important role as catalysts - with agency framework contracts, best practice guides and white papers. All in all, encouraging signs - although there is still much more to do.

GDPR has been the big issue on every marketer’s mind this year. What impact do you see this having on marketers five months in?

Larger brand owners have significantly reviewed their data collection and storage practices and they have adjusted their processes in order to comply with the new legislation. We've moved from an era of plenty to an era of scarcity – that requires companies to have a proper data strategy.

Some companies have taken additional steps in the way they manage the value chain and moved programmatic in-house in order the get a better level of control. Others have significantly cut back in the number of third parties working for them in order to reduce the risks. They have established direct relationships with intermediaries. These are the trends we're seeing. Is this changing the ecosystem as we know it? No, not yet. We're not yet seeing significant structural change on a large scale, probably because a number of provisions of the GDPR have not yet been tested in court.

What do you think makes a great marketing leader today?

A great marketing leader is evolving his/her organisation to be more people-centric, better able to respond to consumer needs and building happier, more engaged teams internally. It's someone working smarter with partners, be they agencies or vendors, and ensuring that the whole team is aligned to the same goals. And delivering inspiring work that genuinely makes a difference, be that cultural, social or for the business.

The Drum has partnered with the WFA to find the next Global Marketer of the Year. For more information on the award and to submit a nomination visit the WFA website here.

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