Pernod Ricard CMO: ‘Brands at risk of Wikileaks moment’

World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) president and Pernod Ricard CMO Martin Riley has challenged marketers to redefine “brand conversations” with fans and gain a social conscience or risk being toppled by a “Wikileaks” moment of their own making.

Opening the organisation’s Global Marketing Conference in Sydney earlier today (26 March), Riley said the age of digital marketing had fully arrived. But advertisers need to integrate CRM, sales, public affairs and PR as well traditional marketing if they are to exploit the “paradigm shift” and respond to growing demand for more “innovative brand experiences”, he added.

Riley said: “Because so many new technologies have created two-way channels of communication, marketing is now the eyes and ears of the business. We see and we hear what people say to us in private focus groups and in the public forums of Twitter and Facebook.”

It means marketers becoming “data experts” and being accountable to both the CFO and the public, he continued, to survive in a world where the “concept of local doesn’t exist anymore”. Global brands need to be seen to “play by the same rules and standards” everywhere if they are to survive.

Riley added: “Any ill-thought commercial, promotion, micro-site in Thailand or Peru can come back and bite you in the UK, New Zealand or Australia. Today brands are only as strong as their weakest link.

“The truth is, in an age where everything is on show, every brand can have their own Tahrir Square or Wikileaks moment. There is an increasing demand from regulators, civil society and, most importantly, people for brands to have a social conscience.”

The WFA is working with regulators in more than 50 countries to amend advertising guidelines for both emerging and traditional media channels. Some changes will “be for the better and provide better clarity”, said Riley, but a “significant number represent challenges to our license to operate.”

In Europe, the trade body has recently tightened rules governing its EU Food Marketing Pledge to impose voluntary limits on the foods advertised to children.

The organisation’s efforts to establish a new framework for marketing are reflected in the number of its members who believe brands need to have a purpose. Most (89 per cent) marketers feel that purpose needs to pervade throughout the entire business and be supported by all divisions, according to the WFA’s latest Brand Purpose report, which will be released tomorrow (26 March).

Riley added: “In the age of big data, successful marketers will need to be an equal measure of mad men, method men and math men – and women of course. We need to build on our links with other parts of the business so that we are better placed to highlight and change business decisions that expose our brands to risk.”

Marketing Week spoke to Martin Riley last year about its long-term marketing investment: read the feature here

Martin Riley is sitting on a panel alongisde William Hill CMO Krisof Fahy, Britvic CMO Matthew Barwell and soon-to-be Post Office CMO Pete Markey on Thursday 3 April at Ad Week Europe. The panel, “Marketing Week Presents CMO 3.0”, will be chaired by Marketing Week editor Ruth Mortimer.