Marketing WFA Global Marketer of the Year COVID-19

What really makes a marketer in 2020? WFA Global Marketer of the Year judges discuss


By Rebecca Stewart | Trends Editor

November 20, 2020 | 8 min read

For the third year in a row, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and The Drum are teaming up to find, and crown, the Global Marketer of the Year. Today, we hear from the judges on the qualities the winner needs to possess in 2020 – a year which has forced brands to be both agile and purposeful in the face of uncertainty.

What really makes a marketer in 2020? WFA Global Marketer of the Year judges discuss

What qualities must a contemporary, outstanding marketer possess to navigate the ongoing crisis that Covid-19 has thrust upon the industry?

With ad spend in decline, ROI under scrutiny and brands pondering their purpose, that’s the question the WFA put to the judging panel contributing to the selection of 2020 Global Marketer of the Year.

This year, the award scheme celebrates the work that marketers from around the world have done to strengthen brands and businesses during the pandemic and beyond.

Only one luminary will scoop the accolade of the world’s top marketer, joining the ranks of previous winners including Mastercard chief marketing officer Raja Rajamannar and L’Oréal’s chief digital officer Lubomira Rochet.

Earlier this year, nominations were sought from the wider marketing industry. Now, as the expert jury of global marketers and industry experts chaired by Rajamannar helps to narrow the shortlist, we hear from the judges on what qualities a modern marketer needs and what they’ll be seeking in the victor.

Lucinda Peniston-Baines, co-founder and managing partner, The Observatory International

“In a year like 2020, empathy remains the critical skill of any marketer. That doesn’t mean that marketing campaigns should all send the same ‘we’re here for you right now’ message – we’ve all heard quite enough of that from financial services or food brands emoting that they’ve got customers’ backs’ right now.

“However, to be able to walk in the shoes of your consumer and find the right moments for just the right message, whether it’s to commiserate with them or to make them laugh out loud, must be a perennial skill for marketers.

“The top marketer of 2020 should have the ability to not only follow the marketing crowd, but to use deep insight and empathy to cut through the challenge and connect with their consumers in a way that delivers real benefits for both the consumer and the brand’s health."

Brian Yuyi, chief executive, the Marketing Association of South Africa

"Critical going into the future will be that sweet spot between the art and the science of marketing. The art of generating relevant emotional and rational connection, and the science to inform both short and long-term strategic decision making amid a shift towards more short-term thinking as consumer habits evolve.

“Somewhere in that spaghetti bowl, clever marketers will also find the longer term golden thread that will guarantee sustainable, long-term brand health.

“From the 2020 Global Marketer of the Year, I want to see humanity at the fore of work done.

“I want to see marketers who did more than just talk about the ‘purpose’ of their brand or service, but instead actually walked the talk and really created something with long-term sustainability and not just to win awards or go viral with a hashtag.

“I want to see evidence of genuine and deep-seated compassion and care at a time the world has been at its most vulnerable.”

Eloísa Moscardó Eloísa corporate advertising director, Santander

“In today’s market, brand leaders must be consistent and coherent with their purpose. They must possess the capability to adapt fast to the market conditions/context and to find efficient and original solutions to our customers’ needs and worries.

“At the end of the day, people appreciate those brands that are doing well, not just in terms of results, but those that contribute towards building a better world.”

Stephan Lorke, chief executive, WFA

“For marketers to navigate the current crisis, there is a need for global collaboration.

“This is the first time in recent history that the entire planet is facing real-time exactly the same pandemic. If there were any doubters of the value of learning from experiences in other markets, the crisis has surely put those to bed.

“The key criteria for me in this year’s judging process is agility – I’ll be looking at how marketers have adjusted to the unexpected and managed to make their brands relevant - both in terms of tone and of content.”

Rupen Desai, global chief marketing officers, Dole Packaged Foods

“As consumers exercise their moral choices via their wallet choices, brands are either answering this call or not. The convergence between their own personal purpose and that of the company and brand will be the most important skill needed to navigate this crisis and to avoid, future ones.

“I will be looking for two things from the 2020 Global Marketer of the Year: the adaptability quotient for marketing plans and their impact, given the year we are all living; and, second, their level of purpose and how did they pivot their plans to be of utilitarian value to the world, the needy, the unequal, the communities and society we serve and even more importantly the planet we leave behind for our future generations.”

Charlotte McEleny, APAC publisher, The Drum

“Empathy is actually the one thing that marketers need because you don’t stop selling during a crisis, certainly not one that will carry on for as long as this. However, they still need to be mindful that everyone’s situation is different and communicating with empathy will keep customers loyal.

“Someone with a perfect blend of empathy and purpose, with an eye for innovation, is the marketer who will take the crown this year. They will understand the customer truly on an empathetic level, while being able to find the channels to reach them at the speed of change required. It’s a mammoth task, but one I am sure the nominees are up to.”

Sandra Martinelli executive president, Brazilian Association of Advertisers (ABA)

“I would say that there are three main skills I find essential in a marketer to effectively navigate the current crisis.

“The first is working for a purpose – this is not a new discussion, but it became crucial during the pandemic. Brands and marketers who stood by their customers during the pandemic and met their needs as human beings are the most likely to be considered in the long term.

The second: the ability to learn fast: this entails being able to take risks, make mistakes and correct paths fast.

“Thirdly, collaboration: working alone with a strictly competitive mindset has no place anymore. Successful marketers are open to find opportunities in the most adverse scenarios and build on that together with partners and even sometimes with competitors, all with the goal to serve our society.

“Creativity will also be top of my list in selecting a winner.”

You can find out more about the full 2020 Global Marketer of the year jury here. The Drum will reveal the shortlist in December 2020, with the winner crowned in January 2021.

Marketing WFA Global Marketer of the Year COVID-19

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