Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar replaces David Wheldon as WFA president

Raja Rajamannar

Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer Raja Rajamannar is to take over the reins as president of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA). His appointment comes amid a wider shakeup of the trade body’s leadership team.

Rajamannar fought off competition from Unilever’s Keith Weed and Diageo’s Syll Saller to be crowned WFA Global Marketer of the Year in January. He will replace RBS marketer David Wheldon, whose presidency is coming to an end after four years at the helm.

Wheldon will continue to serve on WFA’s executive committee as regional vice-president for Western Europe.

Meanwhile, PepsiCo'’s senior vice-president of global public policy and government affairs, Philip Myers, will take over from Mars’ Matthias Berninger as deputy president.

A series of new executive committee members will complete Rajamannar’s WFA line-up, including Danone chief marketing officer, Valérie Hernando-Presse, and Lynette Pang – assistant chief executive for the Singapore Tourism Board marketing group.

Rajamannar has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry and has been at the helm of Mastercard’s marketing department since 2013. Over the course of the past six years he’s: integrated the financial brand’s comms and advertising teams; been instrumental in engineering its digital strategy; spearheaded the advertisers’ purpose-driven marketing and, more recently, dropped Mastercard’s name from its logo.

As well as his marketing role, he is also president of the group’s healthcare division.

It’s not yet known which particular issues he’ll choose to highlight during his presidency. However, he has been outspoken on everything from brand safety to holding the duopoly to account, as well as how talent and technology are impacting the future of the chief marketing officer role.

Commenting at the time of his appointment, he said: “Talent transformation needs to be at the top of every chief marketers’ priority list. Our industry has changed more in the past five years than in the preceding 20 and we are now facing an existential talent crisis.

“Today, it’s not only important to be classically trained in the field of marketing, you need to understand public relations, digital technologies, data science, business models and drivers. Marketers need to be general managers, not just functional specialists.

“As new marketers come through it is important that they diversify their skill sets and learn the fundamentals of how to build both a brand and a business. Gaining diverse experience via stints in various business areas will be critical.”

During his own tenure at the top Wheldon overseen several flagship initiatives for the WFA, taking a lead on brand safety and digital transparency issues in particular with the roll out of its global media charter.

Stephan Loerke, chief executive of WFA said Rajamannar was “one of the very best in the business” and that his work at Mastercard demonstrated how marketers can deliver unrivalled business and social impact in tandem.

“I’d also like to thank David for his invaluable service as president,” he added. “He is nothing short of a giant in the global marketing industry and he has helped lift the organisation to another level in terms of its relevance to chief marketing officers, its strategic focus and its global expansion. We’re delighted he’s agreed to stay on our executive committee and help steer the organisation through future challenges.”

Rajamannar’s term as president will last two years, with the option to extend to four.

“The opportunity in front of marketers today to make a difference for their brand, their business and even the world is tremendous,” he said.

“I am honoured to pick up and carry the torch as president of WFA, an organisation committed to elevating and advancing the activities of our profession, and a role I am convinced will become even more important in the years to come.”

You can read The Drum's exclusive interview with Raja in the latest issue of The Drum magazine.

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