Marketers Do Too Much Navel-Gazing, Says New WFA President

Barclays Marketer Will Focus on Standards, Integration and Purpose

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David Wheldon
David Wheldon
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The World Federation of Advertisers -- the Brussels-based body that claims to represent 90% of global marketing spend -- has named David Wheldon, Barclays Group's managing director of brand, reputation, citizenship and marketing, as its new president.

With a resumé that includes global director and VP advertising at the Coca-Cola Co.; global brand director of Vodafone; head of WPP's team Vodafone; and president of BBDO Europe, Mr. Wheldon brings a wide range of marketer and agency experience to the WFA role.

Mr. Wheldon said, "In my experience, client companies spend too much time navel-gazing when we should be talking about challenges, learning from each others' mistakes and sharing best practices. It's a shame that, in a global world, marketing is not more joined up. The WFA is a very important organization that brings together disparate bits of our world."

During his two-year term at the WFA, Mr. Wheldon said he plans to focus on bringing three main issues to the fore. The first is to try and establish global marketing standards for food, alcohol and data privacy; and the second is to support marketers in their quest to integrate their brands – and the consumer experience – online and offline.

As a marketer at a disgraced financial services institution, Mr. Wheldon's third mission is perhaps closest to his heart. Labelled "Project Reconnect," it's about helping brands to identify a clear purpose and find a meaningful, sustainable role in society.

In Mr. Wheldon's tenure at Barclays, this particular challenge has been amplified since the bank was at the center of a lending scandal in 2012. He admitted, "There has been a breakdown of trust and all sorts of horrendous things in the financial services industry. It's a very long and slow process to recover that trust."

He added, "There is a demand from the consumer to do things differently – marketers have to make sure that every customer is understood, and treated with respect. Millennials are not interested in companies that just make money; they want companies to do something for society."

Mr. Wheldon is taking over the WFA presidency this week during the group's annual Global Marketer Week in Marrakech, Morocco.