10 questions with... Demet İkiler, EMEA chief executive of GroupM

10 questions with... Demet İkiler, EMEA chief executive of GroupM

To showcase the personalities of the people behind the media and marketing sector, The Drum speaks to individuals who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what insights and life experience they can offer the rest of us. This week's 10 questions are put to Demet İkiler, EMEA chief executive officer of GroupM.

What was your first-ever job?

Well, we need to go back to when I was 15 years old! I was acting in advertising TV spots as part of a part-time casting job and giving English and French lessons at university. I became financially independent early in my teenage years.

Which industry buzzword annoys you most?

The ‘year of the mobile’ cliché has been a never-ending story for the last eight years. While some marketers see mobile as a medium, others see it as a channel. From the viewpoint of digital, we prefer to take on mobile at the core of our business because it's more than a medium, it's an instant technology-driven cultural phenomenon that allows consumers and brands to become connected.

‘Purpose’ and ‘sustainability’ are not annoying but are constantly among the top buzz words in many conversations industry-wide. Both purpose and sustainability are very important to take into consideration at each step in our work but, also, we need to be very careful to act sincerely and responsibly within communication strategies.

Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?

Following popular culture on social media can be both enjoyable and informative. I love to follow people and learn from them. You can observe popular conversations, rising trends, filters and metrics such as the interests of the different audiences. Because of this, there are different typologies in my top ten list.

Lil Miquela, the virtual influencer who launched on Instagram in April 2016, is the most exciting for me because of the unique and fascinating idea behind her account.

Jacinda Ardern and Greta Thunberg are also at the top of my list. I regularly check Kylie Jenner’s posts, both for fun and so I don't miss the latest trends in promoted ads. Elon Musk and Richard Branson are always interesting to follow as well.

Highlight of your career (so far?)

Each milestone in my career made me the woman I am today. I have learned a lot and always aim to step out of my comfort zone to make a greater impact. Joining Mindshare Turkey in my early thirties without real management experience – maybe even without any life experience – was the first step I took outside of my comfort zone. We started Mindshare Turkey with only few people, in some of the most difficult years in Turkey’s history. After starting from scratch, we brought Mindshare to the number one agency in its sixth year and it has held this undisputed position since then.

After 10 years of Mindshare Turkey, I became the CEO of GroupM Turkey to help rebuild the group nationwide. And, in 2013, I became the fourth WPP country manager in Europe when I was appointed by WPP Turkey as country chair in addition to my GroupM CEO role. I still hold this position, covering 25 companies with 1,500 people in WPP Turkey. To date, I have been listed amongst Fortune’s and Economist & Capital’s 10 Most Powerful Women CEOs in Turkey for the last five years and made the list of the HERoes Global Top 100 Women Role Models, which recognizes championing diversity and inclusion in business.

In 2019, I was assigned vice-chairperson of the United Nations Global Compact Turkey roundtable of CEOs, leading diversity and inclusiveness within UN Turkey. Very recently, I was appointed as GroupM EMEA CEO, which is a new change of dimension. It is a role that takes my continuous habit of challenging my comfort zone to another level!

What piece of tech can you not live without?

This is an extremely difficult question to answer. Nowadays we use so much tech that we can easily become addicted to it, or can’t imagine life without it. I can't live without emails, WhatsApp, social media platforms, e-commerce, navigation, online banking or video calls. If I had to choose one of them, I would say video calls, since I travel a lot and my son lives in another country.

Of whom or what did you have posters on your bedroom wall as a teenager?

I had a few posters of my favourite stars when I was younger. My favourite TV series was Charlie’s Angels. Kelly’s character, played by Jaclyn Smith, inspired me a lot when I was teenager. Also, John Travolta with his dancing in Grease!

In advertising, what needs to change soon?

We need to make advertising work better. This is specifically directed at stakeholders in the advertising industry. This is a must, rather than an option. We are facing a new generation, of whom 66% want to buy from brands that are engaged and doing good for the world (WT Gen Alpha research 2019). We have to see this as our north star in the industry and help our brands as their trusted partner.

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book in your life?

There are lots of them actually, but one that has recently changed my point of view and given me a different perspective is Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez. Data is fundamental and we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. Caroline shows us how data fails women in time, money and throughout their lives

Which industry event can you not afford to miss each year and why?

WPP Stream events. I try to join as many of them as possible because they inspire me with unconventional thinkers, update me on new technologies and open my mind by discussing topics with industry and brand leaders around the world.

Apart from industry events, through my role in UNGC, I try to join and take an active role in all their gatherings and organizations.

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

I don’t know if someone has given me this piece of advice, but I have always been keen to learn new things at every stage of my life. So, this Leonardo da Vinci quote might best describe my favorite piece of advice: “Learning never exhausts the mind.”

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