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Partnerships, sustainability and the end of short-termism: highlights of WFA Global Marketer Week 2021

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Aprais joined the likes of Facebook and TikTok in sponsoring this year's WFA Global Marketer Week, which was held virtually and attended by CMOs and business leaders from around the world. Here are our highlights of and takeaways from the event and presentations.

Last week marketers from around the world gathered remotely for Global Marketer Week to watch CMOs and business leaders from Mastercard, Unliever and Mars among others take the stage.

The theme of the virtual event, which spanned three days and multiple time zones, was the link between marketing and sustainability.

World-renowned environmentalist and presenter David Attenborough made a guest appearance announcing the premiere of a new Netflix documentary on climate change and there was also a compelling appeal from Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League for marketers to stand up to huge media networks against hate speech.

But while environmental and social issues were at the forefront the underlying message from all the speakers and presenters remained the same: we can only move forwards if we work in partnership and think long-term.

Speakers from Unilever CMO Conny Braams to Mars CMO Jane Wakeley underlined the vital importance of partnership working to make progress, and marketers were also clear the benefits of good relationships and working partnerships far outweighed simple financial results.

‘We measure ourselves not just on financial performance but the depth of the strategic partnerships we forge,’ Wakeley said.

WFA CEO set the scene powerfully at the first of the three days by stating ‘the pandemic has forced our industry to finally respond to some of the big issues it has been ignoring for way too long.’

Contemporary issues

The climate crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement were highlighted as major global issues the world’s leading advertisers, brands and businesses must face together, alongside consumers. As Greenblatt pointed out: ‘Consumers and activists working together led to movements like FairTrade.’

On the second day, Unilever’s Braam highlighted the importance of brands and agencies challenging one another to create solutions. ‘Challenges spark creativity. We know this works in business and it works in sustainability too,’ she said.

And on the final day, Cheryl Goh, CMO at Grab, the largest app in Southeast Asia, said one of the app’s key learnings in its journey from startup was the need to partner to deliver anything at scale. ‘Southeast Asia is very complex and we’re not the best at everything, so we have partners that help us deliver the most impact,’ she said.

Mark Ritson, consultant and columnist at Marketing Week rounded off with a barnstorming call for marketers and advertisers to examine their own practices and consider sustainability and diversity in the context of the industry itself. He pointed that short-term cycles don’t allow for sustainable growth and brand-building. ‘Most marketers see everything within a 12-month planning cycle,’ he said. He also pointed to the poor diversity within the industry. ‘We all think the same.’

When we have data showing that long-term investment in relationships, brand-building, and diversity creates better results, to ignore it is putting the industry out of touch with reality.

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